Chelsea too good for Sporting Lisbon as Blues cruise to top spot
Serious Champions League business begins for Chelsea in February after Jose Mourinho’s men completed their unbeaten Group G campaign with a 3-1 win over Sporting Lisbon.
The Blues had already qualified for the last 16 as group winners, with Sporting hoping to join them ahead of Schalke, managed by Chelsea’s European Cup-winning manager Roberto di Matteo.
A Cesc Fabregas penalty and goals from Andre Schurrle and John Obi Mikel – his fifth goal in more than 300 Blues appearances – meant Sporting had to rely on Maribor avoiding defeat against Schalke.
But the Germans won 1-0 in Slovenia to advance to the knockout stages.
Chelsea had made six changes to the side which lost at Newcastle – the Blues’ first defeat in 24 matches this season – but strolled to a 2-0 lead within 16 minutes.
Jonathan Silva pulled a goal back five minutes into the second half, but Mikel restored the two-goal advantage within six minutes.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, an 18-year-old midfielder who has been at Chelsea since the age of eight, came off the substitutes’ bench for his debut with seven minutes remaining on what was a comfortable night for the home side.
Chelsea always appeared likely to win Group G, the only surprise was that their passage was not more comfortable.
The Blues opened with a draw with Schalke, who they beat 5-0 in Germany, beat Maribor 6-0, but drew the return and edged to a 1-0 win in Lisbon before Wednesday night’s triumph.
Chelsea will face sterner tests when their quest for a second European Cup – and Mourinho’s third with three different clubs – resumes, but first Hull await when the Premier League leaders return to domestic duty on Saturday.