Nearly 10 years have passed since the iconic moment that thrust Jose Mourinho into world soccer's celebrity circle, but there he was again on Tuesday sprinting down the sideline once more to rejoice in a dramatic late triumph.
The Chelsea head coach charged out of his dugout and bounded towards the corner flag within a second of the 87th-minute goal from Demba Ba that gave his side a thrilling Champions League quarterfinal victory over Paris Saint-Germain.
For a moment it looked like he might recreate the image from 2012 when Mourinho slid on his knees – in an uber-expensive designer suit, no less – to celebrate Real Madrid's victory over Manchester City. But instead, he replicated his classic run from 2004 after his underdog Porto team knocked out Manchester United from the Champions League.
This time it was different. Not just a different look, with Mourinho clad in a tracksuit and tennis shoes as opposed to fine fabrics, but a different purpose.
The 51-year-old showed an impressive turn of pace while charging towards his mass of delighted players by the corner flag at Stamford Bridge, but he wasn't looking to showboat in the manner of his younger self. Mourinho took the opportunity to shout details of the tactical changes Ba's goal had spawned into the ears of Andre Schurrle and Fernando Torres and order them to be passed around the squad.
Having spent an evening chasing down PSG's 3-1 lead, it was finally time to defend the advantage and Mourinho was taking no chances.
Perhaps more than anyone in the sport, Mourinho is near-impossible to define. He is a walking, breathing, unpredictable paradox. Even when he changes, he stays the same. Even when he matures – and there is no doubt that he is a far more savvy coach now than when he won the Champions League with Porto a decade ago – he does so with a youthful spring in his step.
And so the odd adventure that has been Mourinho's first season back since rejoining Chelsea continues with optimism restored and everything still to play for.
Just six days ago, a disastrous first leg in Paris seemed to have gifted the French club safe passage through to the semis. Combined with two recent road defeats against weak Premier League opposition, the possibility of an empty-handed Chelsea campaign was likely. Yet Mourinho is never more dangerous than when he is written off, even when it is he who is dissing his own chances, as he has repeatedly done about Chelsea's hopes of winning the Premiership despite being just two points back from leaders Liverpool.
That danger comes in the form of his tactical mastery and, on Tuesday, his ability to pull an inspired switch at just the right time.
Ba has been used scarcely this season and no one will pretend he is anything resembling a tireless workhorse like the man he was sent on for, Frank Lampard. But Ba is a poacher and a fine one, and that's what was needed.
Schurrle gave Chelsea hope in the first half with the opening goal in the 32nd minute, soon after coming on for the injured Eden Hazard. Try as the Blues might, though, they couldn't crack the PSG defensive code after the break and as time wound down, the frustration and tension grew.
Then, suddenly, it was the Senegalese striker Ba who had fate at his feet just in front of goal. Ba didn't make clean contact but he followed through with his left leg and it was enough, sending the ball into the roof of the net and past the arms of Salvatore Sirigu.
A few minutes – and one much-needed reflex save from Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech – later, and it was over. Chelsea clinched passage to the last four by courtesy of the away goals rule.
A murderers' row probably awaits them. Real Madrid survived a scare against Borussia Dortmund but will take its place in the semis. Bayern Munich and Barcelona could join them on Wednesday in what would be a mouthwatering final four lineup.
But that is how Jose Mourinho likes it. Just like he did with the Premier League title race, he will protest that Chelsea are not the favorites and have little chance of winning it.
Don't you believe it.
The sprint down the sidelines that showed the spirit of a rejuvenated coach said it all. The Special One is getting that special feeling once more.
- Sports & Recreation
- Jose Mourinho
- Demba Ba
- Real Madrid