By Mike Collett
LONDON (Reuters) – Chelsea now have the perfect platform to relaunch their season and banish all talk of manager Jose Mourinho’s departure after their 2-1 home win over Dynamo Kiev in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Mourinho could barely contain himself after Willian’s stunning 28-metre free kick seven minutes from time gave his team victory with a performance that at times was totally dominant, yet became nervy after Dynamo threatened to steal a point.
But at the final whistle it was almost like old times at Stamford Bridge as the crowd cheered Mourinho and the Portuguese saluted the crowd. Perhaps Willian’s goal will signal the turning point after what has been a miserable season so far.
There was certainly a feeling of rebirth in the air after Chelsea showed some of their old resolve to win after Dynamo equalised 13 minutes from time.
Aleksandar Dragovic headed a Willian cross into his own net to give Chelsea a 34th minute lead before scoring at the right end to equalise with a thunderous shot after 77 minutes.
The victory secured by Willian’s brilliant goal moves Chelsea closer to qualifying for the last 16 of the tournament they won in 2012.
While there is along way to go before they can consider winning it again, at times they looked more like the side that won the Premier League title last season than the current bottom half strugglers.
Mourinho’s future at Stamford Bridge has been cast into doubt after only three wins in their opening 11 Premier League matches has seen them sink to 15th in the table.
But what is not in doubt is how the fans feel about him and how he feels about them.
“To have the whole stadium supporting me in a difficult time is an unforgettable moment in my career,” he said.
“With Chelsea, I think this is my moment, the club can be proud of their fans. I can only thank them by giving everything I have, to thank them for this reaction.”
Mourinho, the highest profile manager in the highest profile league in the world, is also a huge favourite of the English media for his endless headline grabbing quotes and antics.
Thursday’s newspapers adopted an almost universal theme — that Willian’s superb strike had eased the pressure on the manager and bought him some valuable time.
Whether that is the case or not will depend on their next league results and whether owner Roman Abramovich is going to sack the man he has twice wooed to Stamford Bridge.
On the evidence of what Chelsea produced on Wednesday, that day looks a way off yet.
(Editing by Patrick Johnston)