Booed by the home fans throughout, Matic, who used to play for Sporting's bitter rivals Benfica, nodded in Cesc Fabregas's in-swinging free kick at the back post after 34 minutes.
               
Chelsea coach Jose Mourinho, returning to Sporting two decades after starting his coaching career there as an interpreter, could have enjoyed a more comfortable night if not for an impressive display from home keeper Rui Patricio.
               
The Sporting captain denied prolific Chelsea striker Diego Costa, Andre Schuerrle and Oscar with a string of important saves but his heroics were in vain.
               
Victory took Chelsea to the top of the table on four points after Schalke 04 were held to a surprise 1-1 draw at home to Slovenian side Maribor.
               
"We had so many chances to kill it off, but it was one of those nights when it wouldn't go in and thankfully Nemanja Matic scored," Chelsea captain John Terry, who made his 100th appearance in the Champions League, said.
               
"We lost our first group game last year and went on to win the group. We had that in mind and knew we needed to win - we've put ourselves top of the group and in control again,” he added.
               
"I'm very proud (to make my 100th appearance) - not many players have achieved that. I've had a great and successful career and long may it continue. I'm feeling great at the moment," the former England skipper said.
               
After the disappointing home draw against Schalke 04 two weeks ago, Mourinho said he would "risk" playing striker Costa, who has been suffering with hamstring problems, in the hope that his side could secure a much-needed win.
               
The gamble nearly offered an instant pay-off when Costa beat the offside trap to run clear clear on Sporting's goal but Patricio blocked well with an outstretched leg.
               
Patrico came to his side's rescue again after 15 minutes when Schuerrle tried to dribble round him.
               
Schuerrle passed up an even better chance when he ran on to an Eden Hazard's pull back but placed his shot wide.
               
Chelsea finally found a way past the inspired keeper shortly afterwards when Matic's looping header back across goal nestled in the net.
               
Sporting enjoyed more possession in the second half with winger Nani, on loan from Manchester United, seeing plenty of the ball in dangerous areas.
               
However, it was Chelsea who threatened on the counter-attack with Oscar running clear but Patricio again blocked.
               
Buoyed by that reprieve, the home side nearly equalised as Nani got on the end of a flowing move but he could only hit his shot into the side netting.
               
A frenetic end to the match saw Patricio block more one-on-one chances from Costa and substitute Mohamed Salah but Fredy Montero nearly snatched a draw for the hosts in the last minute but planted his header wide as Sporting's 16-match unbeaten run in Europe came to an end.

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