Demba Ba offered José Mourinho a reminder that Chelsea do have "three great strikers" after scoring the goal that propelled the club into a seventh Champions League semi-final in 11 years, at the expense of Paris St-Germain, the team he has supported since his youth.
The forward, who has started only three games all season, instinctively prodded in the home side's second goal from close range three minutes from time after César Azpilicueta's shot had taken two deflections to fly across the six-yard box. Chelsea, their lead established courtesy of André Schürrle, were on the verge of elimination at the time, with Fernando Torres and Samuel Eto'o also on the pitch.
That trio have drawn regular criticism from Mourinho over the course of the campaign, not least after last week's 3-1 defeat at Parc des Princes when the manager had claimed he lacked any "real" strikers. "I wasn't out for revenge," said Ba in the aftermath. "Maybe he [Mourinho] doesn't have the strikers to his liking, but I know that we have three great strikers and I think that a lot of clubs would like to have them. I'm happy to have liberated us. I haven't been given my chance much this season, but I've taken this one.
"It's the first time I've ever wished PSG to lose, and it's me who scores the goal, luckily for Chelsea. I'm happy for Chelsea but it's hard to see [PSG] lose, especially with one of my best friends, Yohan Cabaye, on the other side. But Eden [Hazard] kept telling me all day: 'It's your time tonight.' I was a bit scared for the Parisians because, after the third goal in Paris, everyone thought PSG were in the semi-final. Even my younger brothers kept telling me this, and then when Eden went off [with a calf strain] their fans already thought they were in the semi-finals. We heard them [singing]: 'We're in the semi-finals.'"
Ba's goal prompted Mourinho, who had dispensed with his customary club suit for training gear, to tear down the touchline – kicking a water bottle en route – as if repeating his famous celebration with Porto at Old Trafford in 2004. The manager later claimed he had been attempting to deliver instructions to his attackers as to how to line up for the three minutes plus four of stoppage time that remained. They reorganised and survived Marquinhos's late shot, which Petr Cech turned round a post as PSG, who had missed chances through Edinson Cavani, rallied in vain.
"It was not to celebrate," Mourinho said. "It was to tell the players how we had to play the last few minutes. I knew at that moment they wanted to celebrate, to think the game is over. They forget that they had three plus three or four other minutes to play, and the way we were playing we couldn't carry on winning 2-0. I had to go there because it would be the only chance I'd have to tell Demba, Fernando and Schürrle what to do in the last seven minutes. But you could see I can still run …
"We are in the semi-finals. If the quarter-finals had eight fantastic teams, imagine the four that are going to reach the semi-finals. A big opponent is waiting for us in the semi-final but I think it doesn't matter who. They know we are a team with a special spirit, even if we are not in the maximum of our potential. Nemanja Matic and Mo Salah cannot play in the Champions League and we always have somebody suspended: Ramires here, and now Branislav Ivanovic in the next game."
The Portuguese described progress as "nothing extraordinary" and pointed to his players having adjusted well to follow the plans he had devised for every eventuality. He will watch Friday's semi-final draw in Nyon with interest but not dread.
"It doesn't matter. Real Madrid, Barcelona, Atlético, Bayern, Manchester... it doesn't matter," he added.
"The players followed our plan, our ambition. Whatever happened, we had ended the game with no energy to go home. If for some reason we hadn't scored the second, or if they had scored from the last corner in the last moment to send us out, everybody in this club would still have been proud of the boys. It's a good victory, but so many semi-finals for me, so many semi-finals for Chelsea. Nothing extraordinary.
He added: "I'm happy for Demba. A good guy, a good professional, a good group man. The fact I played him before Nando made him feel that he doesn't have the No3 striker on his back. His enthusiasm was fantastic and he started giving Paris problems that, normally, they don't have in their league where it's a completely different style of approach. I'm so happy he scored the goal because it means a lot for him and a lot for us."
Ba, who grew up in Le Havre, is a PSG supporter whose family still attend games regularly at Parc des Princes where he still hopes to end his own career one day. "I was right at the bottom of the pile when Mourinho ran down the touchline," he added. "So I don't know what he said. But we were always going to go more direct the longer the game went on. In the end it worked."
The defeated PSG coach, Laurent Blanc, conceded his side – runaway leaders of their domestic league this term – had lacked the necessary nous to see out the victory. "People criticise Ligue 1 and yes, there is a difference in level, but we can't change things," he said. "Ligue 1 is what it is. But I believe, over the two matches, there was little to choose between the sides. Ultimately, their experience at this level maybe counted a bit extra. They're more used to playing games at this level."
The former France defender signed a one-year contract at Parc des Princes last summer with an option for a further year which was expected to be taken up by the club's Qatari owners at the end of the current campaign.