Jose Mourinho Gets It Right as Chelsea Snuff out Atletico Madrid Threat

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistApril 22, 2014

Some will describe it as uninteresting and outright boring, others a genius execution of tactics.

Whatever it was we witnessed in Madrid, we'll find out the ultimate answer next Wednesday when Chelsea host Atletico Madrid in the second leg of their Champions League semi-final.

For now, it's Jose Mourinho who has the upper hand in his battle with Diego Simeone after a goalless draw at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.

A tight game was to be expected when these teams clashed, and with a passionate crowd behind them, it was inevitable Atletico would look to seize the initiative.

In return, Chelsea held up their end of the bargain by remaining resolute, sticking to a game plan that puts them in an ideal position in this tie.

It was all rather simple—snuff out the Atletico threat and worry about what comes next week, next week.

Had Chelsea looked to do the opposite, attack and feed the flames of this encounter, the outcome would have been very different. It would have been naive from Mourinho to do so and would have had the potential to end his team's Champions League hopes in an instant.

Neither Chelsea nor Atleti were going to reach the final on the back of a first-leg victory, but their hopes of doing so could have been all but dashed.

Mourinho is astute enough to know that much.

The Blues got away with it against Paris Saint-Germain in the quarter-final, where a poor performance in the away leg had them teetering on the edge of doom.

They've learned their lesson and now have 90 minutes to defeat Atleti at Stamford Bridge on their own terms.

This time there will be no two-goal deficit to overturn, no panic that with every passing minute their Champions League dream will be over.

There will be other battles to overcome, however.

Petr Cech was forced off early on after landing awkwardly on his elbow—an injury that could rule him out for the remainder of the season if it's revealed to be a dislocation.

John Terry hobbled off himself in the second half after twisting an ankle, while Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel each collected a yellow card, meaning they are suspended for the return leg.

That's potentially four key players in vital areas that will be missing, with little in reserve as back-up.

Nevertheless, spirits are high in the Chelsea camp.

"Everyone was right up for it, which you expect," substitute goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer said to ITV Sport in his post-match TV interview.

"We've got world class players throughout the side and we didn't expect anything less. We knew that if we could match their determination, we knew our quality would come through.

"OK, we didn't create too many chances but we did a good job tonight."

To touch on a cliche, it is only half done.

Mourinho and his players deserve the plaudits, but another performance like this on home soil will serve their critics correct in the assumption Chelsea lack the panache of a side deserving of a Champions League title.

Let's remember, however, without Eden Hazard and Oscar, Chelsea's main creative outlets were absent in Spain. Adding them to the line-up next Wednesday will bring a whole new dimension to the Blues and will give Atletico plenty of problems to consider themselves.

Now's not the time for criticism. There is still plenty of football to be played, plenty of scenes to be played out.

Chelsea have been here before, of course. It was Guus Hiddink who took his team to Spain in the 2009 Champions League semi-final, earning a backs-to-the-wall 0-0 draw with Barcelona.

At Stamford Bridge, Michael Essien's ninth-minute strike looked to have secured a famous victory but for Andres Iniesta's last-ditch equalizer that sent Pep Guardiola's side through on away goals, meeting Manchester United in the final.

Mourinho set out with the same intention when he landed in Madrid—not to lose. From that perspective it was job done.

He can worry about winning next week when it matters most.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent and will be following the club from a London base throughout the 2013-14 season. Follow him on Twitter here @garryhayes


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