Thomas Tuchel had referred to West Brom’s defeat, their first since he became Chelsea manager, as a “slap in the face” and four days later his team could have been hit even more in Seville. Porto, although he could not deliver the blow and in the end it was Chelsea who delivered what could well prove the coup de grace.
For much of the night they had held on to a slight lead from Mason Mount’s magnificent goal after half an hour. And then, four minutes from the end of what had been a difficult night, Ben Chilwell took advantage of Jesús Corona’s lousy control to launch himself into the area, surround the goalkeeper and roll the ball into the net to finish it off. The match and perhaps the draw. Porto could hardly believe it, defeated 2-0 at “home” in Seville.
There were apparent concessions to Porto being the home team: they occupied the bench on the right, used by the hosts of this game, although that theory will have to be tested in the first leg next week, a modest “Campeão”. The (champions) banner was spread out to the south end, a couple bars of their anthem were played before Tony Britten took over, and of course they wore blue and white. Chelsea appeared in the same pink jersey that they wore here on Olivier Giroud’s big night against Sevilla.
Most significant, of course, was that when Chelsea scored just after half an hour, they had the extra weight of an away goal. Chelsea, beyond the pressure they had been subjected to, was able to put the ball back into the center of the field from the left, where Jorginho waited to launch the pass towards Mount from the right corner of the area. With Zaidu Sanusi inside, Mount spun magnificently, passing the defender with a soft touch, and hit the ball hard and low over the far post past Agustín Marchesín.
A away goal was always going to hurt Porto; one like this hurts more. Already considered the easiest draw, the absence of Sérgio Oliveira and Mehdi Taremi, both suspended, deepened that assumption. So did a comically bad free kick routine early on that ended only with the ball returning to Marchesín. And yet what followed made that a lie. With Otavio and Jesús Corona at Chelsea, Zaidu from deep and Mateus Uribe appearing in the area, Porto moved the ball well and made enough chances to have led.
First Luis Díaz saw a shot blocked by Andreas Christensen, then Uribe’s volley grazed the top of the net on its way up. A moment later, a neat exchange saw Diaz look like he was going to shoot before the right was worked where, ready to deliver the decisive ball, Zaidu slipped. Edouard Mendy then pulled away as Otávio rounded a corner that curved under the bar. Pepe nodded at the fumble in the path of Zaidu, who flew up close.
Chelsea had escaped then, a moment later when Mateo Kovacic had to step forward to prevent Diaz from being shot and again when the ball got caught under Otavio’s feet as he combined with Wilson Manafá and ran into the area. Even after they scored, Porto didn’t budge, César Azpilicueta reached out to deflect Corona’s deflection and Mendy pushed Pepe’s header away from the corner that followed. Next, Uribe, quite a quick footwork, dribbled but found Rüdiger closing the shot. At the break it was 8-1 in shots to Porto, 0-1 down on the scoreboard.
When Chelsea seized an opportunity for Timo Werner early in the second half, it was pretty much the first time they’d seen him, but it didn’t signal a significant change. Instead, it was Porto pushing again. A superb pass from Manafá went through the right channel and past Moussa Marega, his shot stopped by Mendy.
Then a neatly angled ball from Corona found Diaz heading toward the edge of the six-yard box, but Azpilicueta was alert and crossed quickly. And then it was Manafá running towards them and crossing the face of the area to find Diaz, whose shot doubled just wide.
A moment later, Chelsea had to take the ball out of the line, although the referee had seen a foul first. Marega couldn’t get a clean enough connection when he shot into the corner, Mendy saved quite comfortably and on the next move fell to a challenge from Azpilicueta, the penalty screaming louder than they thought it really was.
Perhaps it was due to growing frustration, and it was difficult to avoid the feeling that Porto lacked a bit of quality and clarity in the area. Which is quite natural when perhaps your two best attackers are absent.
And that was illustrated when Díaz could not control the ball in the Chelsea area and, even more cruel, when Corona could not do it on the edge of his own either. Chelsea have a big advantage in the second leg next week: at the same time, in the same place.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism