A late Willian goal gave Chelsea a 2-1 win against Dynamo Kiev, and went some way to relieving the pressure on beleaguered boss Jose Mourinho.
Three changes were made, as Abdul Baba, Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja came in from our latest loss to Liverpool, and Eden Hazard, Gary Cahill and John Obi Mikel were left out.
The crowd were in raucous voice all night, and were hugely influential in our victory against some dogged and defensive opposition. Chelsea started brightly as Ramires and Oscar both tested visiting goalkeeper Oleksander Shovkovskiy but all efforts went straight to him, and with it our urgency left and the game began to stagnate somewhat. The only upshot at that point was Dynamo Kiev had seemingly zero interest in scoring, and so we continued to zip the ball about the middle of the park and creating half-chances.
Then, finally came the stroke the luck we perhaps needed to eventually break the deadlock. Abdul Baba raked a lovely cross-field ball to Willian – head and shoulders the best player on the pitch – who then burst forward like he continued to all night, and drove a forceful ball into the area. Centre-back Aleksandr Dragovic attempted to head out for a corner but got his angles all wrong and the ball flew past a helpless Shovkovskiy.
In first half stoppage-time Chelsea were denied a penalty which if converted could have easily ended the tie. Diego Costa, who was again sadly fairly quiet, broke free of his markers and was seemingly brought down when clear on goal. What could have – and in some eyes, should have – been a penalty and with it a red card, was instead a cacophony of boos and outrage from the bench as nothing was given. Replays shown however, that the referee appeared to get the decision correct.
There was a wobbly moment just after the break as Artem Kravets was left one-on-one with Asmir Begovic but an absolutely exquisite piece of defending from young Kurt Zouma denied what was certain to be an equaliser for the Ukrainians.
The game finally began to open up and Begovic was alert to stop Junior Morais levelling things, while Shovkovskiy did phenomenally well to deny Oscar and especially Zouma, who failed to convert from a Willian free-kick when inside the area.
Then as time went on, the tide began to turn. A series of corners proved to be the undoing of us, as first Derlis Gonzalez was inches away from heading in. Then, from a botched backpass from John Terry, came the corner that threatened to derail a morale-boosting performance. Dragovic made amends for his own goal by smashing a volley through the crowd into the correct one. The travelling contingent went wild, as Mourinho stood astonished – perhaps only 13 minutes away from losing his job.
Thankfully though, our magical Brazillian delivered the goods with a superb free kick from 25 yards out seven minutes from time. Stamford Bridge erupted into a cauldron of elation, the relief from the crowd was almost tangible as this game threatened to go the way of so many this season. It was Willian’s fifth goal of the season, which takes him above the Own Goal as our top scorer thus far. Not bad for a player whose future was in doubt upon the arrival of Pedro – the former Shakhtar winger has proven to be perhaps the only player this season to emerge with any credit and with displays such as this he will be in the starting 11 for months to come.
The final whistle came and you could see the relief wash over Mourinho, his name bellowed out from the stands in support of the Portuguese. You would think his job is safe, at least for now – a trip to our League Cup conquerers Stoke City looms next, a loss there and who knows what might happen.
But for now, this article can be finished with a sentence that has not been said often this season – Chelsea took all three points.