Nemanja Matic returned to Lisbon to head the only goal of the game as Chelsea beat Sporting to move top of their Champions League group. The former Benfica man struck after 34 minutes from Cesc Fabregas’ free-kick to leave his former side’s great local rivals marooned at the foot of the standings with just a point from two games.
After a frustrating opening draw at home against Schalke, coach Jose Mourinho will be relieved that Chelsea have kick-started their Champions League campaign. It could, though, have been a far more resounding scoreline for the visitors. Diego Costa was surprisingly named in the starting lineup and remained on the pitch for the full 90 minutes, despite Mourinho lamenting only at the weekend the striker’s hamstring problems that made it difficult for him to play two games in quick succession.
But while Costa appeared to prove his fitness, he was unable to add to his eight-goal tally for his new club. The Brazil-born Spain international looked set to make it nine goals in just seven starts after only two minutes when sent racing through on goal, but was thwarted by a knee of Sporting goalkeeper Rui Patricio. It was not the last chance Chelsea would miss or the last impressive intervention from Sporting’s Portugal international.
Andre Schurrle missed the most glaring of opportunities when Eden Hazard sprinted clear down the right and picked out the wide open German, but he somehow shot wide of the post. Instead it would take a set-piece for Chelsea to finally make their superiority count. Fabregas racked up his seventh assist in eight appearances for Chelsea with a deep free-kick sent in from the left that found Matic completely unmarked to produce a strong header back across goal and into the net.
At the other end a couple of half-chances for Algerian striker Islam Slimani was the best Sporting could muster, until on-loan Manchester United winger Nani livened things up for the hosts in the second half. But it was still Chelsea that had the better openings, with Patricio continuing to prevent the visitors from enjoying a more comfortable evening.