Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell scored their first Champions League goals to give Chelsea one foot in the semi-finals, as Thomas Tuchel’s side went back to basics by beating Porto in the first leg.
Played in Seville because of Covid-19 restrictions, this was a welcome return to business as normal from the Blues, who were thrashed uncharacteristically by West Brom last weekend.
Tuchel’s side had conceded only two goals in an unbeaten 14 run streak before Saturday, and this was a real return to form with two well-taken goals, a clean sheet and a commanding lead to take into next Tuesday’s second leg in the same stadium.
Tuchel made five changes from the weekend, hardly surprising given the tepid nature of their capitulation to relegation-strugglers, and two of those brought back, Mount and Chilwell were inspired selections.
Mount showed just why he is becoming central to Chelsea’s chances of success with a superb goal out of nothing during a first-half in which Chelsea dominated possession but had far more defending to than the Portuguese side. Edouard Mendy was by far the busier goalkeeper as he kept out efforts from Otavio and Pepe, and watched Porto miss the target repeatedly.
By contrast Chelsea had just one effort on target in the opening 45 minutes, but when it came, Mount made the most of it. Jorginho had been widely criticised for his sloppy passing at the weekend, but he fizzed in a perfect ball to Mount in the 32nd minute. The England man took one touch with his left foot and spun, sending defender Zaidu Sanusi sliding past him, and then drilled a low shot with his right foot into the far corner from 15 yards. It was his first goal in the Champions League and an ideal time to score. Porto had beaten Juventus in the previous round, but at a cost, with leading Sérgio Oliveira and Taremi Mehdi suspended for this first leg. Although Sergio Concecao’s side showed their usual combination of skill and athleticism, they could not find a way past Mendy and his defence.
The second half started in similar fashion, with Mendy saving well from Moussa Marega after he had got round the back of Antonio Rudiger and then Cesar Azpilicueta dispossessing Luis Diaz close to goal.
Porto did scramble the ball into the Chelsea net just before the hour mark but Chancel Mbembe was offside, and Diaz flashed a shot just wide. Timo Werner had another luckless night in front of goal, playing on the left of Kai Havertz, selected as a false nine again. The two combined for another Chelsea chance when Antonio Rudiger’s long shot spilled by Agusto Marchasin, but Havertz shot wide from point-blank range and an offside flag against Werner spared the German pair’s blushes. Earlier Werner had headed a Mount cross high over the bar, and Azpilicueta headed well wide from a Reece James free-kick as Chelsea went for the kill, though not before Marenga had another firm shot well saved by Mendy and then appealed in vain when the Chelsea captain appeared to push him over in the penalty area.
Olivier Giroud and Christian Pulisic replaced Werner and Havertz, and the pair combined when the American winger sent in a shot that cannoned off the underside of the bar.
But in the closing minutes Chilwell made the game safe, and put Chelsea well ahead on aggregate when he capitalised on sloppy work from Jesus Corona to run in from the left, take the ball round keeper Marchasin and tap into the net from close range.
It was a famous victory for the Blues, who should progress to the semi-finals where they will face the winners of the Real Madrid v Liverpool tie, with the Spanish side favourites to go through. With just one away defeat in their past 15 games in Europe, and that at Bayern Munich last season, the odds are that Chelsea can go all the way in this competition.
Who would bet against them in this form?