LONDON: Jose Mourinho announced himself to English football the day he danced down the Old Trafford touchline after his Porto side struck a victory goal against Manchester United in the Champions League.
On Wednesday night the tables were turned. This time Diego Simeone was the coach who ran down the touchline in triumphant delight after Atletico de Madrid’s coup de grace of a third goal at Stamford Bridge.
For much of the second half Mourinho watched in apparent sullen resignation as Chelsea lost their Champions League return by 3-1 and 4-2 on aggregate. He appeared to be thinking that his team were receiving only their just desserts for a failure by his bosses to invest more money in players.
Most notably, Chelsea have struggled all season for goals. If they miss out on the Premier League as well as the Champions League then this, more than anything else, will be the source of their failure.
Fernando Torres, though he worked hard and scored the opening goal against the club of which he remains a devoted fan, is no longer worth the £50m he cost from Liverpool; Demba Ba lacks class; Samuel Eto’o is no more than a veteran, short-term stop-gap.
But Chelsea, after criticism for ‘parking the bus’ in the first leg and in the Premier League at Liverpool, were proved wanting not only in attack.
In midfield they suffered not only from the suspensions of Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel but from the erratic form and style of David Luiz.
Further forward the weight of fixtures and pressure has diminished the potency of Eden Hazard and Oscar – and at the wrong time of the year for both individuals, with the World Cup looming.
Already Chelsea have pinpointed Tottenham’s unsettled Paulinho as a replacement for Lampard while Atletico goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois may be recalled from his loan sooner than he expected to prepare for the Petr Cech succession.
Another veteran, captain John Terry, was in tears at the final whistle. His penalty miss in Moscow in 2008 cost Chelsea one shot at the Champions League; suspension cost him a playing role in the Munich triumph in 2012; now he sensed that his last chance of a participant’s winners medal had gone.
Age has caught up with him; and also with Ashley Cole.
Mourinho said: “In one minute two actions decided the game. Atletico’s goalkeeper makes an impossible save from John Terry’s header and instead of 2:1 to Chelsea, a few seconds later they had a penalty. The save was amazing and the penalty was a penalty.
“After that, there was only one team on the pitch. We had immediately the feeling the game was lost. They had the feeling the game was in their hands, and, after that they were very solid, very mature, a real team.
“Every one of my players tried the maximum. We had so many problems but the players gave everything. I’m happy with them. They can go home sad, obviously, but with clean faces. They did their work well.
“They lost but they lost against a very good team and that’s football.”
A palpable gap of class, work ethic and even organisation separated Chelsea from Atletico. To see Chelsea outplayed so comprehensively was a surprise; but not as much of a surprise as seeing Mourinho himself out-manoeuvred.
Now he is poised to finish without a trophy for a second successive season for the first time. Simeone had every right to dash down the touchline in delight.