Mourinho reflects on the fine margins and turning points of football

Clive Rose

It was all going beautifully.  All according to plan.

Well, maybe not quite "all," as our defense seemed to be hanging on by a thread, in stark contrast with the calm assurance on display at Anfield over the weekend and, for that matter, for most of the season but especially since early December.  Yet after Willian and César Azpilicueta combined to fashion a chance for Fernando Torres, and Fernando Torres - in the right place at the right time for once - swung his right leg in the direction of his boyhood team's goal (and the goalkeeper paid at least in part, probably, by Chelsea), it looked like the stars were aligning exactly as it was written in our script.

Thibaut Courtois probably would have saved Torres's shot, adding another to his bouquet of excellent saves on the night, had it not deflected off Joao Miranda, but as it so often happens in football, it's the fine margins that make the biggest of differences.  And we would find out just how big very soon.

When Hazard let Juanfran slip in behind, I'm not sure anybody other than Atléti's right back believed that he'd get to Tiago's cross.  Everybody stopped - other than John Terry who instead appeared to stumble for some reason - as Juanfran flew balletically, majestically through the air to send in a weak, bouncing cross.  Terry tried to desperately get his balance right and his left leg up: he missed the ball by an inch.  Ashley Cole could've cleared or could've controlled, instead he pulled his foot back, allowing safe passage for the slowly dying ball through the six-yard box.  Only he knows what he was thinking because right behind him was Adrián López.  Adrián, much like Torres not ten minutes before, didn't exactly produce a worldly shot.  The scuff went straight into the ground, which then produced just enough bounce to clear Gary Cahill's head but still sneak under the crossbar.

Fine margins.

Fine margins, but what a turning point.  The away goal for Atlético, the loss of the clean sheet.  These were not supposed to happen at Stamford Bridge.  We were going off script.  Here be dragons.

"We had a slight advantage in the way we controlled the game and the 1-1 left everything open for the second half, and that started the same way, but these matches are normally decide by details and that minute had two details."

-Jose Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC

Mourinho was not referring to the 44th minute - though many, including me, see it as the true, the biggest turning point.  Of course, there were more fine margins and turning points to come.  Even at 1-1, it was not all lost.

"The difference was one minute in the second half, when the Atletico keeper made an amazing save from John Terry's header and instead of 2-1 for Chelsea, a few seconds later there was a penalty, and it was a penalty, and it was 2-1 to Atletico."

"In minute 61, two actions decided the game and after that there was only one team on the pitch. My team played with pride, honour and professionalism, but Atletico were very mature and intelligent in the way they controlled the game and they had complete control."

-Jose Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC

And that's without even mentioning the woodworks hit by both David Luiz and Koke.  Fine margins.  Turning points.

"Next season will be better than this season - that's our objective. Our young players will be better, hopefully we will have a couple of players to improve our team and we will try to do better next season."

"We are realistic but, at the same time, there have been times this season when we have been optimistic. There is a moment where you can dream and you think things are possible. Because we did well in the Champions League and in the Premier League, there was a moment where we felt we could do it. In the Premier League it was the match against Aston Villa that made me believe that we had no chance to be champions. After that we built again the momentum and we were waiting for the Liverpool match to be the title match, but we had another surprise against Sunderland. Even so, the boys did a very good Premier League."

"In the Champions League, it's the same. We knew there were teams with more potential than us, who were more ready than us to win the competition, but because you go step by step and beat Paris Saint-Germain after a 3-1 defeat in the first leg, you build your dream. And today, I think it was proved that we had our chance. Until minute 59 we were completely in the game. But the save and the penalty were crucial and, from that moment, the game was over. The players gave everything, but they can go home with a clear conscience. They did their work well but lost to a very good team. That's football."

-Jose Mourinho; source: Guardian

But that's football.  The worst and the best.  The hope and the despair.  Bloody hell.  Football.

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