Chelsea have one foot in the Champions League semi-finals thanks to a 2-0 away win over Porto, with Mason Mount’s first-half effort added to late on by Ben Chilwell.
Thomas Tuchel’s men came into the contest on the back of an embarrassing defeat to struggling West Brom but managed to put that behind them on Wednesday, even if they were not entirely impressive.
Back on the scene of their 4-0 group-stage win over Sevilla due to coronavirus travel restrictions, Chelsea were second best for significant parts of the game but opened the scoring through Mount just past the half-hour mark.
Porto, without key men Sergio Oliveira and Mehdi Taremi due to suspension, were unable to apply the required finishing touch to some of their eye-catching build-up play and a defensive error gifted Chilwell the opportunity to seal what looks like a commanding first-leg advantage.
For all the talk of Porto representing a dream draw for Chelsea, it was Sergio Conceicao’s men who looked brighter in the early exchanges, with Luis Diaz having an effort crucially blocked a few moments before Matheus Uribe saw a fine volley land on the roof of the net rather than in it.
Chelsea had another escape in the 24th minute as Edouard Mendy just about managed to stop Otavio scoring direct from a corner and Zaidu Sanusi put the rebound over.
But a period of Chelsea pressure followed and they capitalised, Mount producing a gorgeous turn to beat Chancel Mbemba on the edge of the box before firing into the bottom-left corner.
Porto began the second period encouragingly as well, Diaz seeing a curling effort go agonisingly wide from 20 yards after excellent work from Wilson Manafa.
An effort from distance at the other end – courtesy of Antonio Rudiger – led to Agustin Marchesin spilling at the feet of Timo Werner, who squared to Kai Havertz and he missed an open goal, though his blushes were spared, to a certain extent, by the offside flag going up against his compatriot.
Not that Chelsea were made to rue that situation as, soon after Christian Pulisic had hit the post on the break, Chilwell made sure of the victory as he pounced on a loose touch by Jesus Corona and tucked into an empty net after rounding Marchesin.
What does it mean? Wasteful Porto pay the penalty
Pundits will likely try to insist this was a commanding win for Chelsea but, in reality, the two-goal cushion flatters them – their 1.8 expected goals (xG) value was 0.1 higher than Porto’s.
At the end of the day, Chelsea benefitted from being able to take the chances that fell their way, with two of three shots on target finding the net. Porto registered five accurate efforts.
Nevertheless, Chilwell’s late goal appeared to transform this tie. Had Porto gone into the second leg just a goal behind knowing they had Taremi and Oliveira – two of their biggest goal threats – back available, they may have been quietly confident. As it is, it will take something special to turn the tie around.
James produces a disciplined display
Debates about England’s right-back choices are all the rage at the moment, so it was perhaps fitting to see Reece James impress here. He was not as much of an attacking threat as he can be, but defensively he was solid, making a Chelsea-high four tackles and five clearances, which was bettered by only Andreas Christensen (six). Diaz got very little out of him.
A day to forget for the strikers
Neither Moussa Marega nor Timo Werner were particularly impressive in Seville. While Marega did at least hit the target with his two shots, he struggled to impose himself against the Chelsea defence. Werner had just a single effort, missing the target, and he touched the ball just 14 times. Even two of the Blues’ second-half substitutes were more involved.
Key Opta Facts
– Chelsea have won consecutive away knockout games in the Champions League for the first time since April 2004 under Claudio Ranieri.
– No side has conceded fewer goals (2) or kept more clean sheets (7) in this season’s Champions League than Chelsea (level with Manchester City on both counts).
– Since Thomas Tuchel’s first game in charge (January 27, 2021), no goalkeeper playing for a top-five European league side has kept more clean sheets in all competitions than Edouard Mendy (10).
– For the first time since March 2012 against Napoli (John Terry and Frank Lampard), Chelsea have had two different English players score for them in the same Champions League match (Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell).
– Porto defender Pepe (38y 40d) became the oldest outfield player to appear in a Champions League quarter-final since Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs back in April 2014 (40y 123d versus Bayern Munich).
Porto will be hoping to extend their domestic winning run to five and further reduce Sporting CP’s eight-point lead at the Primeira Liga summit when they go to Tondela at the weekend, while Chelsea will want to bounce back from their 5-2 humiliation by West Brom when they go to Crystal Palace. The return leg of this tie – also in Seville – is on April 13.