Chelsea refuse to do things the easy way. Having rather dominated Dynamo Kiev in Ukraine with only a point to show for it, the Blues should have had an straightforward time of things at Stamford Bridge. And so it seemed, for about 45 minutes. At halftime there as little doubt about it -- Kiev were doing nothing, we'd been spotted a 1-0 lead and all was pretty much well.
The pretty much part was what got us into trouble.
Let's start from the beginning, though. Chelsea went into this game third in their Champions League group, a point behind Dynamo Kiev and three behind Porto. A home win would put the Blues in commanding position to qualify; a draw would make things a bit of a mess. So Jose Mourinho sent his players out with all guns blazing.
It wasn't exactly a romp, but it was close enough. The visitors spent the first half pinned back and Chelsea looked capable of scoring virtually at will. Since this season is this season, it took a while to make the breakthrough, but when it happened it was thoroughly deserved.
A mis-kick from Asmir Begovic put the ball on the ground in the middle of the pitch, but fortunately it went to Baba Rahman rather than a Kiev player. The lesser-spotted left back then played a diagonal ball which, if intended for Willian rather than Diego Costa (which it probably wasn't) will surely go down as one of the passes of the season.
As it was, Costa left it, confusing the defence and allowing Willian to surge onto the ball from the right flank. The resulting cross was turned into the back of the net by the unfortunate Aleksandar Dragovic. Yes, Own Goal opted to help us out once more. Bless you, own goal.
There might have been another before the break when Diego Costa broke free through the centre, but his trundling run saw him caught up by both Kiev centre backs, and unfortunately he decided to fall and try to get a penalty rather than try to squeeze a shot off. It was an amusing dive, but got him no love from the referee.
It didn't look as though that missed opportunity was going to matter. And nor, for that matter, would Kurt Zouma's hilarious miss from all of two yards out, or Willian's point-blank header that somehow didn't go in, until they all started mattering in a quite serious way. Having held Chelsea to a solitary goal, Kiev knew that they were still in it, and that a 1-1 draw would be a pretty super result to take back home. They duly went for it, and that's when the match started going a bit wrong.
Denis Garmash and Junior Moraes came on at the break as the visitors tried to exploit the gap down the Chelsea right channel that now seems to exist no matter the defensive personnel. They very nearly had a breakaway after Zouma got himself tangled up on a through ball, but were denied by a superb make-up tackle from the young defender. Danger, however, was averted rather than banished. Kiev had woken up.
The Blues were going through a comically bad spell. Nobody seemed to have much clue what they were doing defensively, deferring basic clearances to the wrong person and sometimes tackling their own teammates under no pressure. It was a bizarre and ugly display, and duly culminated in a goal.
Said goal fitted the overall character of play perfectly. John Terry surprised Begovic with a back header which could only be parried wide for a corner, and then the keeper matched his captain's ridiculous example by flying out on the next delivery and getting contact with Nemanja Matic's head rather than the ball. With the net abandoned, it would have been quite difficult for the wide-open Dragovic to miss, and he didn't.
With 13 minutes left, a goal was very bad news. A draw would have given Kiev the tiebreaker on Chelsea and also left them a point ahead in the group, making for some very unhappy times over the next few weeks. So Mourinho rolled the dice, introducing Eden Hazard and Pedro to try to turn things around.
Amazingly, it worked. Hazard was an unholy terror and Pedro wasn't far behind him, and within minutes the former had won a free kick in the Willian zone. Willian, if you'll remember, had cracked the crossbar from one of his god-mode deliveries in the reverse fixture, and he strode up to the ball with a whole Stamford Bridge's worth of hope on his shoulders.
He made that burden look easy, despatching a curling effort beyond Oleksandr Shovkovskiy's fingertips and into the back of the net for his fifth goal of the season. It was, perhaps, his most vital.
The difference between 1-1 and 2-1 was stark. Chelsea now had their tails up and it took some doing not to make it more before full time. There was no longer much fight in the visitors' tired legs, and the Blues cruised to full time knowing that their Champions League future -- at least for this year -- looks very rosy indeed.
PS: here is an ode to Willian that I found online.
He is more than a hero
he is a god in my eyes--
the man who is allowed
to sit beside you -- he
who listens intimately
to the sweet murmur of
your voice, the enticing
laughter that makes my own
heart beat fast. If I meet
you suddenly, I can't
speak -- my tongue is broken;
a thin flame runs under
my skin; seeing nothing,
hearing only my own ears
drumming, I drip with sweat;
trembling shakes my body
and I turn paler than
dry grass. At such times
death isn't far from me
Even poets from the 7th century BC have heard of Willian.