Sporting loses at Chelsea, out of Champions League
LONDON (AP) — Sporting Lisbon was eliminated from the Champions League after losing 3-1 at Chelsea on Wednesday, with the Portuguese side surrendering second place to Schalke in the final round of games in Group H.
Sporting required a point at Stamford Bridge to guarantee finishing runner-up behind the already-qualified Premier League leaders, but went 2-0 down after 16 minutes following goals by Cesc Fabregas and Andre Schuerrle.
Jonathan Silva reduced the deficit for Sporting in the 50th but John Obi Mikel’s close-range goal in 56th ensured there was no way back for the visitors.
Schalke got the victory it needed at Maribor, winning 1-0 to finish a point above third-place Sporting, which drops into the Europa League.
Chelsea was undefeated in group play, winning four games and drawing twice, and is one of the favorites for the title.
“Last year we were close (Chelsea lost in the semifinals) and we didn’t have the team playing at such a high level as we do this season so we can dream we will do it,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said.
“But let’s see if the sharks let us, because there are a few sharks in the ocean.”
With first place assured, Chelsea took the opportunity to rest key players like Eden Hazard, John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic and Thibaut Courtois but still had too much for a Sporting team missing Nani, the in-form winger on loan from Manchester United.
Fabregas — played just behind striker Diego Costa — calmly stroked a penalty into the center of the goal in the eighth minute after Filipe Luis was fouled by Ricardo Esgaio, having slipped the ball through the legs of the Sporting defender.
It got worse for the visitors when Nemanja Matic passed the ball to Schuerrle, who beat his marker on the edge of the penalty and fired a low shot just inside the post.
Sporting threatened sporadically but back-up goalkeeper Petr Cech wasn’t seriously tested until a shot from Silva flew past him into the net after Chelsea’s defense only cleared a cross out to the edge of the box.
Within six minutes, Chelsea restored its two-goal advantage when Gary Cahill flicked on a free kick from Fabregas for Mikel to tap into an empty net from close range.