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Majestic Matic sees off stubborn Sporting


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Former Benfica midfielder Nemanja Matic's return to Lisbon was a happy one as the Serbian's first-half header earned Chelsea a deserved win over plucky Sporting.

The Serbian destroyer, who made nearly a century of appearances for Sporting's cross-city rivals, was on hand to loop a clever header over Rui Patricio from Cesc Fabregas' whipped free-kick delivery to cap off a wonderful individual display.

However Patricio, the Sporting captain, was in equally outstanding form, and produced a string of terrific one-on-one saves to prevent Chelsea from running away with the game.

Instead, the goalkeeper's heroics ensured a tense finish - yet whilst Luis Nani curled an effort just wide of Thibaut Courtois' top corner, the Belgian shot-stopper was under-employed by a relatively toothless Sporting attack.

After the disappointment of their 1-1 draw against Schalke in their previous Champions League encounter, a Sporting equaliser may have seemed something of an inevitability given Chelsea's inability to finish off their opponents, yet, in the end, the Blues were able to see out the game without being overly stretched by their hosts.

With this win, Chelsea have recorded back-to-back clean sheets for the first time this season after following up Saturday's miserly 3-0 defeat of Aston Villa with another shut-out here, but the Blues will certainly have to work on their finishing if they are to pass more demanding tests than this in the weeks to come.

They might have had the lead inside two minutes as Diego Costa raced on to a gorgeous through-ball from Fabregas - but Patricio refused to be beaten; standing tall to deny the Spanish international what would have been a ninth goal of the season already.

Andre Schurrle, in the team in place of Willian, then saw a low shot from an acute angle well stopped by Patricio as Schurrle attempted to round the Portuguese international.

But the most gaping opening of them all was wasted when Schurrle inexplicably failed to convert Eden Hazard's intelligent cut-back; somehow side-footing the ball wide from twelve yards out.

Those misses seemed to count for little with 34 minutes on the clock, however, as Matic arrived at the back post to loop a header over Patricio from Fabregas' delightful free-kick. It was an intelligent finish for the Serbian's second goal of the season, though that strike did little to settle the frenetic tempo of the game so far.

The second half threatened to provide something of a Sporting counter-attack as Nani set the tone for another energetic half of football with a drilled shot from distance, but the game should have been put to bed by Oscar ten minutes into the second period.

Racing through, the Brazilian practically served the ball to Patricio on a silver platter as his finished lacked accuracy and conviction. Credit must be given to the Sporting stopper for staying big once again, but it was a poor finish from a man who has netted twice in as many games over the last seven days.

Sporting were lucky not to be reduced to ten men when Mauricio absolutely took out the rampaging Costa - the defender was the last man and cynically brought the former Atletico Madrid man down. As a consequence of the collision, however, he was stretchered off after receiving a nasty blow to the face, and the hosts were allowed to continue with their full quota of players.

There were hearts in mouths as Freddy Montero headed narrowly wide at the other end, whilst substitute Mohamed Salah was equally as wasteful as his team-mates; side-footing straight at Patricio when well-placed in the area.

It mattered not, though, as the Blues moved top of their Champions League group, opening up a two-point lead over Schalke and Maribor, the second of whom Chelsea face twice in quick succession.

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