Chelsea could drop back and defend, a strategy that played to Mourinho’s tactical strength.
But just before the halftime, Mourinho’s back line had a critical lapse. Tiago lashed a diagonal ball from left to right, and Juanfran one-touched a soft pass back across the face of the goal that Adrián López finished to level the score at 1-1. Somehow, all of Chelsea’s defenders were caught ball-watching simultaneously.
The away goal by Atlético meant it held the crucial tiebreaker, and Chelsea had little choice but to press in the second half. Simeone did not retreat, though, and the game turned in seconds.
At one end of the field, Atlético goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois — who is actually Chelsea property but is on loan to Atlético — made a miraculous save to deny John Terry’s fierce header.
All but over
Moments later, Atlético’s star striker Diego Costa drew a penalty kick — after a woeful foul from the substitute Samuel Eto’o — and converted it from the spot to suddenly put Chelsea on the brink with 30 minutes remaining.
“The save is amazing,” Mourinho said, “and the penalty is a penalty. In one minute, a few actions decided the game.”
Diego Costa may well be on the Chelsea roster next season (Mourinho is one of many managers interested in signing him) but for the moment, he is still wearing stripes. There was a long delay before he took the penalty kick — much of it caused by Diego Costa, who earned a yellow card for time-wasting after he continually kicked at the grass around the spot — but his shot was true.
Plenty to celebrate
“I know there are offers for me,” he said of Chelsea’s reported interest. “But I feel well here at Atlético. So let’s see.”
After Diego Costa scored, Atlético took control, dictating the rest of the match while Chelsea chased in vain. Mourinho praised Atlético’s “mature” poise — particularly impressive because the club has little European experience — and Turan provided the coda when he tapped in a rebound from close range with 18 minutes left.
By then, the mood at Stamford Bridge had sunk. As the ball bounced off the back of the net, Simeone took off running. It was bold. It was brash. It was perfect. And Mourinho just stood still.
Only In The Express