Thomas Tuchel had referred to the West Brom defeat, his first since becoming Chelsea coach, as a “slap in the face” and four days later his team might have been hit even harder in Seville. Porto though just couldn’t land the punch and in the end it was Chelsea who delivered what could well prove the knock out blow.
For much of the night they had held on to a slim lead given to them by Mason Mount’s superb goal after half an hour. And then with four minutes left on what had been a difficult night, Ben Chilwell took advantage of Jesús Corona’s dreadful control to dash into the area, round the goalkeeper and roll the ball into the net to end it. The match and maybe the tie. Porto could barely believe it, defeated 2-0 at “home” in Seville.
There were apparent concessions to Porto being the home side: they occupied the right-hand dug-out, used by the hosts of this game – although that theory will have to be tested in next week’s “away” leg – a modest “Campeão” (Champions) banner was stretched across the south end, a couple of 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 kit they wore here on Olivier Giroud’s grand night against Sevilla.
The most significant thing of course was that when Chelsea scored just after the half hour it carried the extra weight of an away goal. Chelsea, stepping beyond the pressure to which they had been subjected, were allowed to work the ball back into the midfield from the left, where Jorginho was waiting to play the pass forwards towards Mount by the right corner of the area. With Zaidu Sanusi drawn in, Mount turned superbly, spinning beyond the defender with one smooth touch, and struck the ball hard and low in by the far post beyond Agustín Marchesín.
An away goal was always going to hurt Porto; one like this hurt more. Already considered the easiest draw, the absence of Sérgio Oliveira and Mehdi Taremi, both suspended, deepened that assumption. So too did a comically bad free kick routine early on that ended only with the ball going all the way back to Marchesín. And yet what followed made a lie of that. With Otavio and Jesús Corona going at Chelsea, Zaidu coming from deep and Mateus Uribe appearing in around the area, Porto moved the ball well and made sufficient chances to have led.
First Luis Díaz saw a shot blocked by Andreas Christensen, then Uribe’s volley skimmed the top of the netting on its way over. A moment later, a neat exchange saw Díaz look like he would get a shot off before it was worked round to the right where, ready to deliver the decisive ball, Zaidu slipped. Edouard Mendy then pushed away as Otavio bent a corner that was curling in under the bar. Pepe nodded the loose ball into the path of Zaidu who volleyed over from close range.
Chelsea had escaped then, a moment later when Mateo Kovacic had to step across to stop Díaz dashing clear 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 had scored, Porto didn’t relent, César Azpilicueta reaching out to deflect wide from Corona and Mendy pushing away Pepe’s header from the corner that followed. Next Uribe, all quick footwork, dribbled through but found Rüdiger closing down the shot. At half time it was 8-1 in shots to Porto, 0-1 down on the scoreboard.
When Chelsea worked a chance for Timo Werner at the start of the second half it was pretty much the first time he had been seen, but it didn’t signal a significant shift. Instead, it was Porto pushing again. A superb Manafá pass curled through the right channel and put Moussa Marega through, his shot saved by Mendy.
Next a neat angled ball from Corona found Díaz heading towards the edge of the six-yard box, but Azpilicueta was alert and across quickly. And then it was Manafá running at them and across the face of the area to find Díaz, whose shot bent just wide.
A moment after that Chelsea had to scramble the ball off the line, although the referee had seen a foul first. Marega couldn’t get a clean enough connection as he shot on the turn, Mendy saving comfortably enough and in the next move he tumbled under a challenge from Azpilicueta, the penalty shouts greater than their belief that it really was.
Perhaps it was borne of growing frustration, and it was hard to avoid the feeling that Porto lacked a little quality and clarity around the area. Which is natural enough when perhaps your best two attackers are absent.
And that was illustrated when Díaz couldn’t bring the ball under control in the Chelsea area and, even more cruelly, when nor could Corona on the edge of his own. Chelsea have a huge lead to take into the second leg next week: same time, same place.