HE’S FAR from out of the woods yet, but emerging from such a high-stakes match is a monumental boost to Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas.
Elimination at the group stage would have represented the club’s worst ever Champions League performance, and would only have amplified calls for the Portuguese rookie to go sooner rather than later.
The misdemeanour would have been brought up every time his job security was mentioned – in other words, before every fixture – until he either strung a dozen wins together or bit the dust.
It may be that he would have clung onto his job, in the short term at least, even if they had crashed out last night to Valencia. Villas-Boas, it seems, has convinced the notoriously trigger-happy Roman Abramovich to entrust him with the task of overhauling the club, which will not bear fruit overnight.
But reaching the last 16 in Europe at the very least buys him some more time, and gives strength to the claim that his players are behind him.
He can now approach a January transfer window – in which a minimum of two senior players look likely to leave, and others may arrive – emboldened, having avoided a potentially catastrophic pitfall.
Suddenly, a November slump appears that little bit more distant, and Monday’s visit of Premier League leaders Manchester City a little less like another elephant trap.
He will need to show that further improvements are forthcoming, and that finishing in the top four in the most competitive of seasons remains on track, but he can now do so with a modicum more comfort.
Frank Dalleres is Sports Editor of City A.M. Follow him on Twitter @frankdalleres