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Porto 0-2 Chelsea: Blues take control of Champions League quarter-final


The pass was nothing special. Floated upfield it landed at the feet of an opponent, Jesus Corona. His control was poor, too, a rotten first touch that tamely offered up possession. Ben Chilwell took it from there. A moment of pure class that may well have decided this tie.

He sprinted forward on goal, Pepe in forlorn pursuit, rounded goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin, popped it into the empty net. It was rather similar to a certain Fernando Torres in the Nou Camp in 2012. If Chelsea are looking for omens from that year of European triumph, the previous Chelsea manager to win his first three Champions League knockout games was Roberto Di Matteo. Thomas Tuchel matched him on Wednesday night.

Tuchel is a smart guy. He knows what he has got at Chelsea, and what he lacks. This is not a team that is going to take Europe by storm, free-wheeling and free-scoring. Chelsea may be edging towards Istanbul, but they are doing it one goal, one step at a time.

Chelsea grabbed control of their Champions League quarter-final tie with Porto thanks to a 2-0 victory on Wednesday night

Chelsea grabbed control of their Champions League quarter-final tie with Porto thanks to a 2-0 victory on Wednesday night

Ben Chilwell put Chelsea into a commanding position after netting his side's second of the game in the 85th minute

Ben Chilwell put Chelsea into a commanding position after netting his side’s second of the game in the 85th minute 

Chilwell celebrates with Cesar Azpilicueta after doubling the Premier League's sides advantage against Porto in Seville

Chilwell celebrates with Cesar Azpilicueta after doubling the Premier League’s sides advantage against Porto in Seville

The England international capitalised on a defensive error before expertly rounding Porto goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin

The England international capitalised on a defensive error before expertly rounding Porto goalkeeper Agustin Marchesin

Chilwell taps home Chelsea's second goal of the night as Pepe can't get back in time to deny the England left back

Chilwell taps home Chelsea’s second goal of the night as Pepe can’t get back in time to deny the England left back

It turned out to be a brilliant night for Chelsea, who now have one foot in the Champions League semi-finals

It turned out to be a brilliant night for Chelsea, who now have one foot in the Champions League semi-finals

MATCH FACTS 

PORTO (4-4-2): Marchesin 5.5; Manafa 6.5 (Conceicao 83min), Mbemba 6.5, Pepe 7, Sanusi 6.5; Corona 6.5, Uribe 6.5, Grujic 6.5, Otavio 6 (Vieira 83); Marega 6 (Martinez 83), Diaz 6.

Subs not used: Leite, Loum, Ramos, Baro, Neto Lopes, Felipe Anderson, Evanilson, Nanu, Sarr.

Booked: Mbemba, Grujic.

Manager: Sergio Conceicao 6.

CHELSEA (3-4-2-1): Mendy 6.5; Azpilicueta 7, Christensen 7, Rudiger 7.5; James 7.5 (Silva 80), Jorginho 7, Kovacic 7.5 (Emerson 90+2), Chilwell 7.5; Mount 8 (Kante 80), Werner 6 (Pulisic 65, 6.5); Havertz 6 (Giroud 65, 6).

Subs not used: Arrizabalaga, Alonso, Abraham, Caballero, Zouma, Hudson-Odoi, Ziyech.

Scorers: Mount 32, Chilwell 85.

Manager: Thomas Tuchel 8.

Referee: Slavko Vincic (Slovenia) 6.

 

On Wednesday night it was Mason Mount whose goal made the difference after 32 minutes. Chelsea held on from there before Chilwell’s second gave them breathing space. They played Kai Havertz as the falsest of nines, and Timo Werner as his hard-working sidekick. Neither looked like scoring.

The pair could have stayed in Seville, unaccompanied until next Tuesday’s return leg, and they probably still wouldn’t have scored. At one stage Olivier Giroud, a genuine striker, was introduced as a focal point and didn’t touch the ball for 11 minutes. That West Brom defeat looks ever more curious, even from distance.

Porto had more chances without greatly threatening. They had an excuse, mind, striker Mehdi Taremi and his supplier Sergio Oliveira both missing through suspension. As a pair they account for 40 per cent of Porto’s goals this season. They will be back next week, though, when there will also be no home advantage for Chelsea, both legs being played on neutral territory. Expect more of the same from Tuchel’s men, then.

Yet in the circumstances, this was a great result and a solid performance. Most teams at this stage of the competition possess immense forward threat: Mo Salah, Erling Haaland, Vinicius Junior, Kylian Mbappe. Chelsea are different. This was a tight display, with break-out moments.

Christian Pulisic came on and hit the bar. Cesar Azpilicueta had a header from a great scoring position go wide. Then there was Chilwell and the lovely flowing movement that gave Chelsea a 2-0 win and the equivalent number of away goals. 

That should be it now. Even though next week’s second leg is at the same neutral venue, it counts as Chelsea’s home tie. Porto need three to progress. With normal service resumed it does not looks as if they will get that. Who do they think they are? West Brom?

Indeed, given the dark memory of last Saturday it was the nil in the scoreline that may have pleased Tuchel most. This was a defiant, determined display, full of character and resilience. By the hour, Porto’s light had faded, worn down by Chelsea’s sheer powers of resistance. And they do possess a few players who can define a game with goals. 

Mason Mount gave Chelsea the early advantage in the quarter-final tie with a superbly-taken finish in the 32nd minute

Mason Mount gave Chelsea the early advantage in the quarter-final tie with a superbly-taken finish in the 32nd minute

The England midfielder celebrates after netting a crucial away goal for Thomas Tuchel's side in Seville on Wednesday night

The England midfielder celebrates after netting a crucial away goal for Thomas Tuchel’s side in Seville on Wednesday night

Mount turned brilliantly after collecting a Jorginho pass before striking home into the bottom right corner of the Porto net

Mount turned brilliantly after collecting a Jorginho pass before striking home into the bottom right corner of the Porto net

The England international is mobbed by his Chelsea team-mates after giving his side the early advantage in Spain

The England international is mobbed by his Chelsea team-mates after giving his side the early advantage in Spain

Mount is one. Incredibly, there are still those who doubt his worth – for England more than Chelsea, admittedly – but the way he took the opener was evidence of a top class talent; one of the finest young players, not just in this country, but across Europe. 

Until that moment, Chelsea had laboured. Havertz put a decent cross in after three minutes but there was no-one in the middle to receive it. That is what happens sometimes when a coach plays a false nine. Havertz was Chelsea’s false nine. Werner did not have the wit to be a real nine, when Havertz went wide.

So that was it, for Chelsea, until Mount scored. No shots on target, no shots off either. It wasn’t as if Porto were all over them, but there was little in the way of goal threat that did not come from Reece James’ work on the right flank. Mount’s first goal in European football changed that. 

It came from a lovely pass by Jorginho. His eyes sending Porto’s defenders one way, his feet firing his pass into Mount just outside Porto’s area. Yet it was Mount’s collection of the ball that transformed the moment. It wasn’t quite a Cruyff turn, but it was the next level down.

Zaidu, Porto’s impressive left wing-back, ended up sprawled on the pitch, bamboozled as Mount advanced on goal. He finished low across goalkeeper Marchesin, who should have done more. No matter. At 22 years and 87 days, Mount became Chelsea’s youngest goalscorer in a Champions League knockout game. It was a vital break, given Porto’s pressure. 

Veteran Pepe put the ball into the back of the net for Porto but his strike was ruled out after an offside in the build-up

Veteran Pepe put the ball into the back of the net for Porto but his strike was ruled out after an offside in the build-up

Moussa Marega goes down in the penalty area following pressure from Cesar Azpilicueta but the referee waves play on

Moussa Marega goes down in the penalty area following pressure from Cesar Azpilicueta but the referee waves play on

It proved to be a very frustrating night for Porto boss Sergio Conceicao as his side couldn't find a way back into the game

It proved to be a very frustrating night for Porto boss Sergio Conceicao as his side couldn’t find a way back into the game

Before the match, the Portuguese had been trying to stoke tensions and a sense of injustice in their players. There had been talk of Chelsea’s squad crassly celebrating when the draw was made which sounds highly dubious – no team of significance would be that presumptuous – and much focus on the financial disparity between the clubs. 

It was nonsense really. Porto have huge advantages as one of Portugal’s biggest teams – indeed when Jose Mourinho first came to England one of his complaints was that, unlike Porto, England’s Champions League clubs could not bend the domestic schedule to their will to make UEFA competition easier.

So Porto are a big, big team – just one in a competition that does not generate the money of the Premier League. And they played with that swagger, too, certainly in the first-half. Porto showed confidence, flair and no little threat.

Matheus Uribe was the first to test Chelsea’s resistance, with a neat little bit of keep-up finished by a half-volley that flew narrowly over the bar. Soon after, a stupid unnecessary foul by Jorginho in a dangerous position set up a passage of play in which Porto forced three consecutive corners.

Kai Havertz surges into Porto's penalty area early on but no Chelsea team-mate was able to latch onto his subsequent cross

Kai Havertz surges into Porto’s penalty area early on but no Chelsea team-mate was able to latch onto his subsequent cross

Reece James found himself in plenty of space early on down the right but Chelsea struggled to capitalise on his freedom

Reece James found himself in plenty of space early on down the right but Chelsea struggled to capitalise on his freedom

Chelsea's starting XI line-up at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium moments before kick-off on Wednesday night

Chelsea’s starting XI line-up at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium moments before kick-off on Wednesday night

For the last, Otavio curled one in with such venom it was all Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy could do to backtrack and fish it out from his line. The ball was recycled and Zaidu shot over.

Even after the goal, little changed. Jesus Corona had a shot deflected by Chelsea captain Azpilicueta and a header from a corner by Pepe was tipped wide by Mendy. Uribe finished the half as he started with another strong attempt, this one also diverted.

And while Chelsea started the second-half well – Mount set up a chance for Werner, which he headed over – Porto were soon in their stride again. After 50 minutes, Moussa Marega caught Antonio Rudiger napping and forced an excellent save from Mendy, before Luis Diaz curled a shot just wide six minutes later.

At the other end, Chelsea’s forwards were doing little to convince. On the hour Rudiger had a shot from range which goalkeeper Marchesin spilled unconvincingly. Werner was first to it, but chose to square rather than finish. Havertz, goal at his mercy from a matter of five yards, missed. At which point, a linesman flagged offside meaning it wouldn’t have counted. Probably just as well, for the self-esteem of all involved. Chelsea created three on-target chances, scored two. Keep doing that, and who knows?

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