By Greg Stobart at Stamford Bridge
With the clock ticking and a corner swinging into the box, a Chelsea player rose to head a vital goal in at the near post.
On Wednesday night, there were echoes of last season’s Champions League triumph as the holders beat Shakhtar Donetsk 3-2 at Stamford Bridge to boost their chances of reaching the knockout stage of the competition.
Chelsea fans might have been forgiven for thinking they used up their luck in Europe last term with a series of back-from-the-brink victories, whether over Valencia, Napoli, Barcelona or in the penalty shootout win over Bayern Munich in the final.
No-one can question the sheer willpower and winning mentality it took for Chelsea to become champions of Europe. That approach continued as they sneaked a win over Shakhtar, the impressive Ukrainian champions, that leaves them joint-top of Group E on seven points and looking likely to qualify for the second round.
That goal transforms the complexion of the group but the sublime attacking passing and movement of Shakhtar will serve as a warning that fighting spirit and perseverance will only get them so far in Europe this season.
The Blues were outpassed for long periods of the game and made some sloppy defensive mistakes, with Ryan Bertrand and David Luiz particularly culpable. Captain John Terry described the fixture as "huge" in his pre-match programme notes only to find himself left on the substitutes' bench, with manager Roberto Di Matteo citing a lack of match fitness following the defender’s racism ban.
They looked helpless to stop Shakhtar’s swift attacks at times, as the likes of Fernandinho and Willian - a long-term Chelsea target who scored both of the visitors’ goals - caught the eye in midfield.
You could say it is the natural consequences of Chelsea trying to follow the Barcelona model and fulfil the wish of owner Roman Abramovich for flowing, attacking football.
But the little things make a difference. While the width of the post prevented Razvan Rat from putting the Ukrainian side 3-2 ahead, Moses’ header sneaked over the defender on the line and under the post to send Stamford Bridge into raptures.
There were positives for Chelsea, not least another starring performance from Oscar, who played with touch and poise beyond his 20 years and added to Fernando Torres’ opener with a stunning strike from 45 yards.
Last season’s European charge was all about destiny for Chelsea. Now, they need to rely less on luck and more on skill. Di Matteo knows he cannot expect divine intervention forever.
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