The dynamic Willian — always looking like the danger man for struggling Chelsea — hammered in an 83rd minute free kick of impeccable precision to lift the Stamford Bridge side to a vital 2-1 Champions League victory over Dynamo Kiev on Wednesday night.
Aleksander Dragovic had scored at both ends as Dynamo Kiev was level 1-1 with 10 minutes to play against Jose Mourinho’s shaky, under-pressure side. But just when it appeared that the visitors might steal a point and pile more heat on the embattled Mourinho, Willian produced the necessary piece of magic to make everything so much better for the London Blues.
Dragovic had headed into his own net in the 34th minute to put his side behind, but later took advantage of some poor goalkeeping from Asmir Begovic to even the score in the 77th and give the visitors a real shot at sharing the points. Although there were times when Chelsea seemed comfortable on the ball and able to create openings, the finish was lacking too often once again.
Article continues below ...
Willian changed that equation with his brilliant free kick, lifting Chelsea to second place in Group G with the victory. They moved two points clear of now-third place Dynamo but remain three back of leaders FC Porto, who defeated Maccabi Tel Aviv in the other group contest.
Although Chelsea had dominated possession and looked sharp whenever they attacked down the flanks in the first 34 minutes, it wasn’t until Willian drilled a low cross into the box looking for Diego Costa that Dynamo’s defense was breached. Dragovic dove full length at his near post but his resulting header was always going inside the post rather than safely for a corner kick, while goalkeeper Oleksander Shovkovskiy had no chance to prevent the goal.
Certainly deserved on the run of play, the gift from the bright-blonde haired defender came at just the right moment for the Stamford Bridge side which has struggled so often this season. Until Dragovic’s header put them ahead they had continued to look like a side unable to make the final pass to spring the likes of Costa, although Ramires, Willian and Oscar had all had been effective as playmakers.
Mourinho — who was saluted by the crowd after Dragovic’s goal — could only smile and shake his head just before the interval when Czech referee Pavel Kralovec refused a penalty claim after a Costa run down the middle of the box.
Then it was Serhiy Rebrov’s turn to question Kralovec when Artem Kravets broke behind the defense three minutes into the second half, but he could ultimately have no complaints about Kurt Zouma’s perfectly-timed tackle that denied the Dynamo striker a shooting chance.
Seven minutes into the second half it appeared that Rebrov had a more legitimate reason to complain, when a drive from Derlis Gonzalez struck Ramires in the chest and arm in the penalty area. The Czech referee decided that there was no penalty as the Kiev players threw their arms in the air claiming an award. Then Begovic had to react very smartly to parry away a hard shot from Junior Moraes as Dynamo kept up the pressure.
Chelsea might have made everything safe on the hour when a Willian free kick found Zouma at the far post only for the resulting shot to go across the face of goal with the open right corner gaping. Four minutes later Shovkovskiy denied Oscar a goal with a leaping save at his top right hand corner as the game was opening up at both ends.
Dragovic then made amends for his first half mistake when he collected off a corner that Begovic failed to handle and drove the equalizer into the near left corner from eight yards. Begovic came off his line but only flailed at the delivery, Dragovic accepting the opportunity and firing the ball between bodies to the back of the net.
It stayed even for just five minutes because substitute Eden Hazard drew a foul minutes after coming on the field and Willian drilled the free kick from the top left into the top corner of the net to settle the issue. It may prove to a goal of great importance in the context of the Chelsea season.
”From the mental point of view it was important,” Mourinho said. ”A reaction to a negative moment.”
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report