“I was waiting for the critics,” laughed Real Madrid coach José Mourinho in his post-match press conference after Tuesday’s last-gasp victory against English champions Manchester City. When facing the media, the Portuguese looked a different man to the one he did with five minutes to go in the game.
Manchester City had just taken the lead against the run of play for the second time in a match and Mourinho must have been fearing the worst as he cut an isolated figure on the touchline.
Eight points behind rival Barcelona in the league and on the way to losing in the first Champions League match of the season, the headlines, were, in his own words “writing themselves.”
His players though, had other ideas. Firstly, substitute Karim Benzema, without a goal in almost 10 games, turned his man on the edge of the box before finding the bottom corner. Then, with just one minute left of the 90, Cristiano Ronaldo, a figure of ridicule of late after saying he felt sad at the Bernabéu, cut inside from the left channel, and fired a shot into the back of the net, somehow evading goalkeeper Joe Hart.
And with that, an outburst of pure emotion from Mourinho. Falling to his knees, arms in the air pointing to the sky, he celebrated as if the ball had left his right boot, and not that of his Portuguese compatriot. The relief was evident for all to see.
Málaga made a winning start to its first-ever Champions League campaign, defeating Russia's Zenit 3-0 at La Rosaleda.