LONDON, England — As Demba Ba prodded home three minutes from full time to send Chelsea through to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League, Blues boss Jose Mourinho sprinted 55-yards down the touchline to celebrate with his players near the corner flag.
Stamford Bridge erupted at the final whistle, as Ba’s goal sealed Chelsea’s passage into the final four in the most dramatic fashion with a stunning turnaround from their 3-1 first leg defeat in Paris. It brought back memories of when Chelsea lifted the famous trophy back in 2012, as during that succession run they overturned a two-goal deficit against Napoli.
Mourinho has now reached eight Champions League semifinals in his managerial career — more than any other manager and his fifth-straight final four appearance — but this latest charge towards Europe’s elite trophy was perhaps the most dramatic.
Asked afterwards by ITV why he charged down the touchline — which he did back in 2004 when his FC Porto team famously beat Manchester United at Old Trafford — Mourinho gave an answer nobody was expecting.
“I didn’t go to the corner flag to celebrate. I went to tell them the changes we had to make,” Mourinho said. “There were three minutes plus extra-time left and the way we were playing was too risky. I wanted Demba Ba to play in front of the defenders and Fernando Torres to defend Maxwell. I tried to use them in different jobs.”
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After the game when asked about his turn of pace down the line, Mourinho joked: “You could see that I can still run, no?”
Whether or not you believe the 51-year-old’s explanation, Mourinho’s side stuck to their task right until the end of the match as PSG hung off for dear life and Laurent Blanc’s men surely felt they’d done enough to reach the UCL semis. Mourinho believes Chelsea deserved to go through, as PSG defended solidly but offered little going forward.
“I think we did enough at beginning of the second-half to score before we did. In the second-half it was pure ball possession. But it was difficult for us to penetrate,” Mourinho said. “We did it in training yesterday, with three different systems, all of which we used. The players knew what they had to do. Demba Ba made a crucial finish for us. It was very much deserved that the team that tried to defend was punished. The team that played with their heart deserved to go through.”
Chelsea certainly played with heart and determination, as the Blues now wait to see who they get in the Champions League semifinal draw on Friday. Chelsea captain John Terry, who helped thwart PSG’s expensively assembled attack for the first-time in 17 UCL matches, was over the moon with the victory.
“We gave ourselves a chance by not conceding. We had to hit the big man [Ba] and he scores,” Terry said. “This competition means a lot to us. The experiences we have had keeps you fighting and believing. Winning it was the best feeling ever. These big performances are what we live for. Everyone doubted us tonight but we showed great character and fight to come back. It all paid off.”