FC Porto 0 Chelsea 2
A night of firsts for Chelsea with Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell scoring heir first Champions League goals as they took a significant step into reaching the semi-finals.
There was another with Thomas Tuchel becoming Chelsea’s first head coach for almost a decade to win his first three games in this competition – since Roberto Di Matteo, in fact, who went on to win the Champions League in 2012.
Is that an omen? Certainly Tuchel, who took Paris Saint-Germain to last season’s final, has transformed Chelsea. Porto threatened throughout, they had their chances and yet it is another clean sheet as well as two away goals for Chelsea and we know how precious they are in Europe.
Although it took place in Seville this fixture was Porto’s home tie with the two sides meeting in the return leg – with Chelsea designated at ‘home’ – in the same stadium next Tuesday. Confused? Possibly so. But there was a mature clarity to Chelsea’s performance as they scored from two of their three efforts on target and also struck the crossbar.
Given their feats this season, and not least in knocking out Juventus in the previous round, Porto cannot be written off but Chelsea are firmly favourites to reach the last four for the first time since 2014.
Until Chilwell’s strike it was Mount who had made the difference with a sublime swivel and finish was he again showed that he is Chelsea’s best academy player since John Terry and certainly the best produced in the Roman Abramovich era.
Yet again it was Mount providing evidence that he is Chelsea’s most important player. They had been under pressure, they had lacked a threat, with Kai Havertz struggling to impose himself as a central striker – or was he a No 10? – and it looked like a change might be needed.
And then, as the best players do, Mount shifted the momentum of the game. It was a shrewd pass into him by Jorginho, but it was all about Mount after that with a wonderful drag back and turn, in one movement, as Zaidu Sanusi committed himself by sliding in, before driving the ball across goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin and into the net. Maybe Marchesin could have done better, but Mount had his first Champions League goal and Chelsea became only the third team to score against Porto in the competition this season after Manchester City and Juventus.
Did they deserve it? Probably not.
If there was an expectation that Chelsea would dominate this tie then Porto had not been listening, even if they had whipped themselves up into a manufactured froth over the denied claims that Tuchel’s side had celebrated the draw against the Portuguese champions.
Five times in the opening quarter they threatened, with each opportunity taking them closer to scoring. Firstly an effort from Luis Diaz was blocked, then Mateus Uribe cushioned the ball and went close with a volley that skimmed the top of the net before Pepe’s shot was also diverted away.
From the corner Edouard Mendy had to be alert to push out Otavio’s delivery that was dipping in under the crossbar with Pepe keeping it alive by heading the ball back, where Sanusi volleyed wildly over.
The warnings continued. Porto were missing their two most effective players – Sergio Oliveira and Mehdi Taremi were both suspended – but swiftly brushed that aside as they pressed Chelsea high and aggressively. It was why their coach Sergio Conceicao was so incensed that they fell behind, which meant Chelsea not just had the lead but a precious away goal. Mount’s strike proved to be Chelsea’s only effort on target in the first half, the only time they truly threatened, with Porto making the running again as Otavio’s shot was charged down and finally, from a corner, Mendy pushed a powerful header from Pepe around a post.
Mount turned provider, sending in a cross that was met by Timo Werner, who could not keep his header down, before Porto went close again as Antonio Rudiger hesitated and allowed Moussa Marega to run onto a through pass. The angle was tight but, still, Mendy did well to divert the angled shot away for another corner.
Although Chelsea gave the appearance of being in control, Tuchel will have been concerned at the number of chances they were giving up. Pepe beat Mendy to yet another corner, but he could not head home, and Dias turned nimbly on the edge of the area but shot
Their dominance convinced Tuchel to make changes, bringing on Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic, which showed how ineffective two thirds of his attack had been. This was a disappointing night for Havertz and Werner. But before Tuchel made the changes, Cesar Azpilicueta headed wide when he met Reece James’s cross from inside the six-yard area. Unmarked, he surely had to score.
The Chelsea captain was involved at the other end as he put his hands on Marega’s back. The striker went over, claiming a penalty but the referee waved play on.
Finally Chelsea threatened with Giroud playing in Pulisic who ran on and struck a fierce right-foot shot that beat Marchesin and cannoned back off the crossbar. That would have made such a difference but then Chilwell did just that as he pounced on a poor touch by Corona to hold off Chancel Mbemba, calmly push the ball past Marchesin and side-foot home. What a difference that made.
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