Nemanja Matic’s first-half header was enough for Chelsea to record a first victory of Champions League Group G, but it should have been so much more comfortable than a 1-0 win at Sporting Lisbon.
The Estadio Jose Alvalade, where Blues boss Jose Mourinho spent 18 months from 1992 as assistant to Sir Bobby Robson, was vibrant on Sporting’s first home clash among Europe’s elite in five years.
In arguably the toughest assignment of the group, Chelsea, who opened with 1-1 draw at home to Schalke, were looking to end Sporting’s 16-match unbeaten home run in continental competition and should have been 2-0 up inside the opening 22 minutes.
Diego Costa, selected despite his fragile hamstrings, erred in a one on one as Rui Patricio saved after two minutes and 20 minutes later Andre Schurrle missed a straightforward chance.
It was one of a number of opportunities spurned by the German as it appeared the Premier League’s top scorers were having an off night in front of goal.
That was until Matic, booed on account of his spell with Sporting’s rivals Benfica, headed Chelsea into a 34th-minute lead from Cesc Fabregas’ free-kick.
Sporting appealed in vain for a penalty when Gary Cahill blocked a first-half shot, but that was as good as it got for the hosts.
Patricio – congratulated at the end by Mourinho – denied Oscar and Nani, the on loan Manchester United winger, could only find the side-netting for Sporting, who never troubled Thibaut Courtois, even in a finale when they pressed for an equaliser which never came.
Chelsea’s domestic dominance has yet to transfer into Europe and the Blues now twice play Slovenia’s Maribor.