SEA 3 SPORTING LISBON 1
CHELSEA manager Jose Mourinho believes his team are primed to go even further in the Champions League this season if they can avoid what he called “sharks”, after the Blues crowned their group campaign with a comfortable win last night.
Cesc Fabregas’s penalty, a clinical strike from Andre Schurrle and John Obi Mikel’s tap-in ensured the Premier League leaders bounced back from a first defeat of the season last weekend to dump out Sporting.
Chelsea’s superiority was sufficient for Mourinho to both hand teenage midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek an eye-catching late cameo and forecast that the Blues could eclipse last term’s semi-final appearance -- if they avoid pitfalls.
“Last year we were close and we didn’t have the team playing at such a high level as this season so we can dream,” he said. “But let’s see if the sharks let us do that because there are a few sharks in the ocean.”
Mourinho praised Loftus-Cheek for a mature display, despite failing to give him the prominence that had been suggested, the Portuguese instead naming a strong XI. “He’s very confident, a good personality, he’s not afraid to take responsibility on the pitch,” he added. “Obviously he has a lot to improve but he has great potential. If people around him don’t make things difficult for me, he can be a big player.”
Chelsea raced into a two-goal lead within 16 minutes, denting Sporting’s hopes of a win that would have guaranteed their progress.
Fabregas tucked a penalty straight down the middle after defender Ricardo Esgaio had blocked Filipe Luis, and then Schurrle spun sharply on the edge of the D to sweep low past goalkeeper Rui Patricio.
Sporting revived their hopes of finishing runners-up just after half-time when Jonathan Silva carefully volleyed past Petr Cech. But Chelsea hit back quickly through Mikel, who ushered the ball over the line for his fourth goal in 326 appearances.
SCOUTING REPORT: RUBEN LOFTUS-CHEEK
■ Chelsea gave midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek a first-team debut last night and this is how the 18-year-old got on.
Influence with the ball
■ Lost ball with first touch but flawless thereafter, inciting multiple counter-attacks with impeccable timing and decision-making, always choosing right pass.
Impact when not in possession
■ Demonstrated strength by winning ball high up pitch and drawing a foul from Paulo Oliveira. Also helped out at the back though was largely spared defensive duties by presence of Matic and Mikel.
Is he ready for first-team?
■ A seven-minute cameo isn't much to go on but he justified the hype and comparisons with Yaya Toure with a powerful and exciting display.