Chelsea 2-0 FC Porto: Jose Mourinho relief as Blues top Group G in Champions League
Jose Mourinho received a slice of luck and another reprieve as Chelsea advanced to the knockout stages of the Champions League as Group G winners with a 2-0 victory over his former club Porto.
The Blues, toiling domestically to put Mourinho's position in jeopardy, had some good fortune when Iker Casillas saved Diego Costa's shot and the ball ricocheted in off Ivan Marcano.
And when Willian, Chelsea's star player this season, doubled the lead seven minutes into the second half, Mourinho turned towards his son seated behind the dugout and punched the air in defiance.
Emotion was etched on his face and the home faithful sang the manager's name.
Blues owner Roman Abramovich applauded in his seat opposite in Stamford Bridge's West Stand, sharing in high fives with those around him.
Chelsea had avoided the ignominy and embarrassment of dropping into the Europa League. Mourinho's job was safe, for now.
Defeat and a Champions League exit could have forced Abramovich to act and wield the axe, but now the 2012 winners will play in the last 16 next spring.
Mourinho has work to do to remain in charge until then.
He was subject to the first managerial vote of confidence of Abramovich's 12-year ownership on October 5.
Fortunes have barely improved since and a solution must be found for their domestic troubles.
The Blues, who suffered an eighth loss in 15 Barclays Premier League matches last Saturday to Bournemouth, could be in the bottom three by the time they play at leaders Leicester on Monday.
It was much better from Chelsea, but not always convincing.
Costa hardly justified his recall, spurning some good opportunities.
The striker was also booked for petulant trip on Casillas and escaped punishment for kicking at Bruno Martins Indi when on the floor after being fouled by the Porto left-back.
Porto had never won in England in 15 previous matches, but had lost only once in 19 prior matches this season.
That defeat to Dynamo Kiev left the group wide open and Porto had to repeat their September win over Chelsea to go through.
The visitors began well, with Thibaut Courtois called upon to stop Yacine Brahimi's rasping shot from the right.
Costa forced the opening goal after riding the challenge of Marcano to reach Eden Hazard's pass.
The Costa of last season might have beaten Casillas with the shot, but instead it was blocked, only to rebound off Marcano and over the line.
The additional goal-line official awarded the goal despite Maicon's desperate dive.
Costa was roughed up by Porto, but not without reason as he mindlessly tripped Casillas after his Spain team-mate had gathered the ball.
Oscar was also tripped by Costa, as the pair got in each other's way when going into the box.
Oscar may have fallen over a stray Marcano foot, but Costa's presence distracted from the possibility of a penalty.
An Oscar strike deflected wickedly wide and Costa shot wide across goal, while Nemanja Matic was shown a yellow card which rules him out of Chelsea's next European match.
Casillas saved from Willian, who beat the Porto goalkeeper soon afterwards.
Hazard played in the Brazilian, who took one touch before finishing emphatically into the bottom corner.
Chelsea could have had more and Brahimi twice went close. Costa lost out in a shoulder-to-shoulder duel with Danilo before taking a heavy touch when played through soon afterwards.
And Hazard hit the post late on and is now without a goal in 26 Chelsea games.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho has refused to contemplate defeat to Porto on Wednesday night and the possibility of being sacked.
The Blues play Mourinho's former club looking to put Premier League woes aside by reaching the Champions League knockout stages.
A draw would be enough to advance but, assuming Dynamo Kiev beat Maccabi Tel Aviv in the night's other Group G tie, a second loss in the competition to Porto could see Mourinho's second spell come to an end.
"There are no 'ifs'. Win, or draw, or lose. I am an optimistic guy. There are no 'ifs'," said Mourinho, when asked if it could be his final match in charge.
Mourinho was subject to the first managerial vote of confidence of Roman Abramovich's 12-year ownership on October 5, but the Russian's patience is apparently being tested.
The defending Premier League champions are 14th after 15 games, eight of them defeats, including at home to newly-promoted Bournemouth last Saturday.
Mourinho issued a veiled barb at his misfiring strike force, notably Diego Costa and Eden Hazard, in insisting the Blues' predicament is not his sole responsibility.
Costa has seven goals since January - just four this season - and has been a substitute for the past two games, with Hazard deployed as a 'false nine'. Hazard is without a goal in his past 25 Chelsea games.
Mourinho used statistics to say "records" had been broken in three consecutive matches, despite saying such figures meant "very little" to him as recently as Friday.
"We run and we run and we work more than ever and at certain intensity that we never did before," added Mourinho, who says he is working individually with his strikers.
"Our levels of ball possession are much higher than before too. Our chances are higher than ever.
"Our number of goals is lower than ever. You have the numbers, you read the numbers, you get some conclusions.
"For me they mean something. It means it's everybody's responsibility."
The 52-year-old has been backed by Sir Alex Ferguson, who said Abramovich would be "foolish" to sack Mourinho. The former Manchester United boss also reckons Leicester could win the title.
Defeat there next Monday could see Chelsea fall into the Premier League relegation zone, yet Mourinho says Abramovich does not "change with the wind".
The Portuguese insisted one man can not be held accountable for Chelsea's problems.
"This is not a one-man responsibility," said Mourinho, who is under contract until June 2019.
"I don't think the owner is a person to change with the wind. Results in the Premier League are really bad, but I think the owner knows who I am, what I gave to the club and the owner believes I am the right person to do the job."
Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, fit again following a three-month absence with a knee injury, says as many as eight players have been underperforming in each Chelsea game this season.
"You have moments when your level is high, other times a bit lower," Courtois said.
"Sometimes you have eight players on a top level and three a bit down. Maybe this season it's the other way round.
"Last season we were on a higher level and that's why we were champions. We're still the same players as last season, the top players who belong to Chelsea, a big team who aspire to win trophies.
"If everybody gets on their top level, we'll start winning again."
Belfast Telegraph Digital