Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho paid an emotional tribute to the team’s loyal fans as the beleaguered Blues boss savoured the dramatic 2-1 Champions League win over Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday that earned him a stay of execution.
Mourinho has been under siege from critics who claim his side’s woeful run has left him on the verge of the sack. And with Chelsea’s defence of the Premier League title in tatters amid rumours of a dressing room mutiny against his leadership, Mourinho looked a dead man walking when Dynamo’s Aleksandar Dragovic cancelled out his earlier own goal in the closing stages on Wednesday.
But Brazil winger Willian came to Mourinho’s rescue when he unleashed his latest fabulous free-kick in the 83rd minute to secure a vital victory that put Chelsea’s bid to reach the last 16 back in their own hands with two Group G fixtures remaining.
Willian’s wonder strike was greeted with unrestrained glee in the Stamford Bridge stands as the Chelsea supporters who had spent the entire match chanting “Stand up for the Special One” and singing Mourinho’s name over and over were rewarded for their faith in the 52-year-old.
“This is my moment. When I came back to this club and we played the first match against Hull, the way the stadium welcomed me was amazing, but it is not comparable to today,” Mourinho said. “This comes at a moment when the results are not good and you (the media) are asking for my head.
“The fans read newspapers, they watch TV, they listen to pundits’, commentators’ opinions, they read blogs and it’s quite unbelievable what they tried to say today.
“They tried to say, ‘we want you here’ and probably they also want to say to all of you ‘we want him, let him work’.
“It’s a fantastic feeling. To support the manager shows respect and passion for the club. It’s amazing.
“With Chelsea this is my moment. The club has to be very proud of their fans.
“I don’t have another way to thank them other than to give everything, which I have always done and always will do.”
Although Chelsea were still well short of the dominant form that made them Premier League champions just six months ago, Mourinho has to be grateful for small mercies after their second win in nine games. For once, his players didn’t fold under duress and the Chelsea chief took heart from the way they refused to settle for a draw which would have pushed him closer to an unwanted exit.
“It was acceptable to draw but the team showed it wanted to win and emerged from a negative moment,” Mourinho said.
“From a mental point of view it was important. When the negative moment arrived in the past the team feels it too much.
“Today was the perfect situation. We conceded with 15 minutes left and the team emerged. We wanted to win and felt confident to do that.
“I spoke a lot with the players. When the difficult moment arrives, face the difficult moment, don’t crumble. And they did. They were fantastic.”
Chelsea are now up to second in the group and Mourinho challenged them to catch leaders Porto by winning their final two matches.
“Now we can still finish first in the group. That is not the most important thing, which is to qualify, but we can still finish first,” he added.
Dynamo manager Sergei Rebrov refused to give up hope of overhauling Chelsea’s two-point lead over them in the race to reach the last 16.
“This is the most prestigious tournament. It is very important for the players to be in it,” Rebrov said.
“Of course the situation isn’t great for, but we will be fighting to stay in the competition.”