The last time Jose Mourinho took charge of a Champions League game at Stamford Bridge he was sacked.
It was September 2007. Chelsea were, domestically, one place higher and had four more points than they do this morning. They were facing a team that, like Basel on Wednesday night, could be considered one of the competition’s makeweights.
Rosenborg, however, put up rather stiffer resistance than anyone expected. Chelsea’s owner, Roman Abramovich, took one look around the swathes of empty blue seats, drank in the insipid performance, decided he had had enough of the rows and cut the cord. The news crackled through the Manchester United plane waiting on the runway at Lisbon like electricity.
Nobody is expecting anything similar against the champions of Switzerland but Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at Everton was a reminder that few second comings, from Kevin Keegan to Kenny Dalglish, run as smoothly as the first. This, Mourinho acknowledged, was a different Chelsea.
“When I came here from Porto my first loss was against Manchester City at the end of October,” said Mourinho, who was on this occasion too modest to remind the journalists crowded around him that he did not lose another match as Chelsea manager that season.
“This team has a different profile and we are not unbeatable. I am here to make the players play the best they can – to be adult and not naïve,” he said. “The beginning of the season was hard – away at Manchester United, the Super Cup against Bayern Munich and now away at Everton. The story here was of a team that had 21 shots and could not score.”
The Chelsea that drove their way to the title in 2005 with 95 points were not naïve: they were a machine, with Didier Drogba operating as the brutally efficient spearhead.
On Saturday evening, Mourinho pointed out that had André Schürrle been quicker in putting the ball in front of Samuel Eto’o’s feet then Gareth Barry would not have had time to make what seems now like a match-saving tackle.
When Chelsea lost 1-0 at Eastlands in 2004, to a Nicolas Anelka penalty, Mourinho savaged his team in private and public. Now, it was Schürrle, a man he played no part in signing, who bore the brunt of his frustration. Eto’o, a man he did bring to Stamford Bridge, was absolved.
Mourinho’s changes, which included hauling off the young German and replacing Ashley Cole with Fernando Torres, seemed to make Chelsea more leaden. If Mourinho argued afterwards that “artistic football without goals is not good,” then sometimes the art looked primitive.
Nevertheless, he pointed out it was wrong to suggest his players had not understood his tactical changes, saying that they had panicked in trying to force the equaliser.
“They did not lose the game tactically, they lost it emotionally,” he said. “Tactically, they knew what they had to do with three at the back. They know the distance they can go. Emotionally, it is different. You see your watch ticking down, 15, 12, 11... it goes very fast when you are losing and they lost a little bit of emotional control.”
That included aimless long balls to some not very tall attackers. “Who is going to win it?” Mourinho asked. “Hazard? Oscar? Mata? There was too much emotion and not enough football.”
He complained that the last time Chelsea had come to Goodison “they had won without having done anything to win it”. The man in charge of Chelsea then was his old nemesis, Rafa Benitez. This season Mourinho has pledged to be nicer to everyone but, obviously, there are exceptions.
Champions league: eye on the opposition
An early second-half penalty from Matias Emilio Delgado send Basel off to Wednesday’s opening Group E trip to Chelsea with a Swiss Cup victory.
The Argentine scored the only goal of the game from the spot after 55 minutes at Munsingen to claim a 1-0 victory and take last season’s runners-up through to the third round. Basel sit third in the league table after seven games.
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