Jose Mourinho praises ‘best player’ Eden Hazard despite crucial penalty miss

Jose Mourinho has refused to criticize Eden Hazard despite the Belgian's important penalty miss

Jose Mourinho has defended Eden Hazard after the Chelsea midfielder’s penalty miss in the 1-1 Champions League draw away to Maribor, insisting he was the Blues’ best performer.

Hazard was denied in the 86th minute after his dazzling footwork won Chelsea the penalty, meaning Mourinho’s men had to settle for a draw in Slovenia.

Maribor’s Agim Ibraimi gave the hosts a brilliant second-half lead before Nemanja Matic equalised and provided the stage for Hazard to win the match – which he could not do after a string of sensational saves from goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic.

Mourinho told Sky Sports: "When a player plays as well as Eden Hazard did – for me he was absolutely fantastic, by far the best player in my team – he can miss a penalty and still be the best player in my team. 

"In the last 30 minutes, we played really intensely and creatively with big desire to win, we had lots of chances to do it, but the goalkeeper was magnificent.

"We created lots of chances and the goalkeeper was really, really good."

Mourinho made two half-time changes, including the introduction of Diego Costa, after what he deemed to be a lacklustre opening 45 minutes from Chelsea.

"I was not happy with the team and not happy with the performances," he continued. "I changed it at half-time with the conviction that the team is going to improve. I was proven right.

"In the first half we didn’t play well. In the second half, after their goal, we played very well and normally we would win the game. But when you don’t play well for 90 minutes you risk it.

"We paid the price of not having a good first half. And in the second half their goalkeeper was fantastic."