LONDON • Jose Mourinho hailed Chelsea's show of solidarity and emotional support as his hopes of surviving the crisis at Stamford Bridge were revived by Willian's spectacular late free kick that secured a 2-1 Champions League win over Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday.
The manager was under intense pressure to get a result and his prospects of escaping the sack seemed bleaker than ever when the Ukrainian side equalised in the Champions League Group G match and looked to inflict a defeat that would have hastened his departure.
Willian, whose run and cross forced the own goal that gave Chelsea an early lead, struck his fifth free-kick goal of the season, with seven minutes remaining.
That incited the home supporters to chant "stand up for the Special One" in a number of gestures of support for Mourinho, who raised his hand in acknowledgement.
The Portuguese tactician insisted that people had been revelling in his downfall and wanted to witness his sacking, with Chelsea playing away to Stoke City in the Premier League tomorrow when he may be banned from the stadium.
What pleased me more is that their goal didn't kill us.
JOSE MOURINHO on how his Chelsea players responded after Dynamo Kiev equalised
He paid tribute to the fans.
"It comes in a moment where you are asking for my 'end'," Mourinho said. "Today they tried to say, 'We want you here'.
"And, probably, they want to say, 'All of you, let him work. We want him. Let him work'."
The manager said Chelsea retaking the lead could be a turning point in their season, after four defeats in the past seven games.
Clean sheet strategy
Eden Hazard may feel even more of a scapegoat for Chelsea's recent troubles after being left out of the starting line-up but there was method behind manager Jose Mourinho's meanness.
He had obviously decided that keeping a clean sheet was the key to this game.
Cesar Azpilicueta was moved to the right of defence, with Baba Rahman on the left, and encouraged to try to get forward.
Mourinho obviously felt Hazard would not offer enough protection on that side and so the Belgium winger's creativity was sacrificed to ensure that a defence marshalled by Ramires and Nemanja Matic - acting like two centre-backs in front of the actual centre-backs - would not be breached.
Willian revels in the role of workhorse for Mourinho and the Brazil winger was relentless as he did his shift on the right flank.
He carried Chelsea's biggest threat and his probing forced the error for the first goal.
Mourinho was keen to keep Cesc Fabregas up the pitch and nearer to Diego Costa, as he lacks trust in the Spaniard playing a deeper role.
Mourinho's team are now set up not to concede. Flair play? It is all about winning right now and Willian came to the rescue just in time.
Mourinho has gone from the Special One to the Happy One to the Miserable One.
The Stamford Bridge crowd chanted his name heartily but all he could muster in response was an almost embarrassed wave. He showed no emotion when his team scored, nor in victory.
What happened to the man who used to sprint up and down touchlines? He now shows emotion only when a decision goes against him, such as the maniacal cackling after Costa was denied a penalty. He is happy when the world is against him.
The London side were in danger of throwing away their good work when Asmir Begovic conceded a corner. From the set-piece, the goalkeeper had the ball headed out of his hands by Nemanja Matic and Aleksandar Dragovic equalised, cancelling out his own goal.
"To win after conceding a goal with 15 minutes to go, it's important, the team emerged," said Mourinho. "What pleased me more is that their goal didn't kill us.
"We wanted to win and felt confidence for that.
"It's something I spoke about with the players.
"When the difficult moment arrives, face the difficult moment.
"Don't collapse. Keep the belief.
"They were fantastic. The players showed they wanted to win.
"Today, they did."
THE TIMES, LONDON