Chelsea 0-1 Porto (2-1): Five things we learned as the Blues progressed into the semi-finals

Chelsea Vs Porto wasn’t the most exciting game but after a dominant first leg performance, it didn’t need to be. Just the one shot on target, but the only number that matters is 2-1 on aggregate.

Coming in off of a solid 4-1 win, some might have hoped that the attacking output would continue to flourish. For the neutral it was unfortunate that didn’t come to fruition, but in reality it was a professional defensive performance that was shown by Thomas Tuchel’s troops on Tuesday.

It doesn’t matter how pretty it is, getting the job done is what matters

Many will criticise Chelsea for a ‘boring’ performance, and while it wasn’t the most watchable game, it worked. The back three stood firm virtually all game, conceding only two shots on target over 90 minutes.

It ended up taking a bicycle kick to break the deadlock, by which point it was too late for Porto. If we had to concede, then I’m not sure anyone can complain with the quality of the finish – after all, we’ve been treated to an acrobatic finish of our own already this season.

Olivier Giroud, who was a sub against Porto scoring a world class overhead kick against Atletico Madrid in the round of 16  (Photo by DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP via Getty Images)
Olivier Giroud scoring a world class overhead kick against Atletico Madrid in the round of 16 (Photo by DANIEL MIHAILESCU/AFP via Getty Images)

Fundamentally, Tuchel is an experienced manager, particularly in the context of big European nights. It was going to take some resilience to break the duck of not reaching the semi finals of the Champions League in seven years.

Of course, that’s not to say Chelsea created no chances, but the predominant factor was clearly that of the defence. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: the transformation of our back line has been nothing short of miraculous.

There’s an old saying that strikers win you games but defenders win you trophies and it seems that philosophy is one which the Blues have been abiding by recently.

Pulisic’s calves will be hurting in the morning

There were many players I could’ve highlighted after what felt like more of a team performance than an individual one, but Christian Pulisic is one I feel deserves credit.

He led Chelsea up the pitch on countless occasions, driving up from his penalty box to the halfway line. He dribbled up the pitch until a Porto player inevitably harshly hacked him down.

It was almost reminiscent of an Eden Hazard performance in the amount of dribbles he found being ended prematurely. While there wasn’t quite a moment of magic to cap a strong performance as the Belgian may have done, it is pleasing to see Pulisic getting back to his best.

In fact, the American was fouled 11 different times – more than any other player in any Champions League match this season. Not bad for someone supposedly ‘out of form’ recently.

That said, there is another player who deserves great credit after yet another world class performance. N’Golo Kante simply never seems to run out of energy and he showed that yet again today, but he is so consistent that it hardly seems worth mentioning at times!

The attack is still a work in progress

While I have endlessly praised the defensive performance so far, the attack can’t quite receive the same accolades. The fact Chelsea finally scored more than two goals on Saturday wasn’t lost on anyone but the forward play was less conspicuous against Porto.

The only two clear cut chances fell to Mason Mount and Pulisic, both in the second half. The former saw his weak-footed effort deflected behind and the latter had a shot saved late on. With few other chances, there could be some questions over the efficiency of the goal-scoring side of the team.

Then again, many could argue that, in a leg where they were 2-0 up, that simply wasn’t needed. Rather than risk being open at the back, it was instead a more conservative display which was required in Seville.

Porto were a shadow of their Juventus-defeating selves

For all the praise Porto received after their performance in the previous round, such professionalism appeared lost in this game. There were fouls and dives aplenty, further disrupting an already patchy game.

It began early with an elbow into Kai Havertz and it became clear what the pattern of the match would be. The French referee often ignored various incidents involving Pulisic, leading to some questioning whether he had left his cards at home.

Thankfully he appeared to find them in the second 45 minutes but the warnings didn’t put off further disruption. On more than few occasions Conceição’s men threw themselves to the ground in the hope of winning fouls. Sometimes they did this very successfully, other times less so.

N'Golo Kante was superb in another Chelsea knockout tie against Porto  (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)
N’Golo Kante was superb in another Chelsea knockout tie against Porto (Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images)

Speaking of Conceição, he appeared to be fired up for a fight that never got going throughout the evening, picking up his second yellow card on the touchline in as many games. Even at full time he seemed aggravated – a reflection of the at times inexcusable tactics utilised by his side.

To Chelsea’s credit, they never took the bait and it benefitted them in that the game never truly got going. What’s more, when it did, Porto created very little in comparison to their previous outings in the competition, though this was at least in part testament to the defensive setup of the Blues.

Beating Porto shows Chelsea have a real shot at going all the way

A few months ago many would have scoffed at the idea of Chelsea winning the Champions league.. But, as a result of the recent transformation of the club, winning a second European cup does seem within reach.

That’s not to say it will be easy – even getting past either Liverpool or Real Madrid will take some doing, with both having huge experience in Europe. Not only that, but should we progress to the final, a huge challenge awaits, regardless of the opponent.

That said, there is a strong argument to suggest we have the capability to beat all those teams. Bayern Munich were perhaps the only opponent left who we would’ve gone into a game with very little hope, so with them gone, why not dare to dream?

The Blues have proven their worth against European heavyweights in the form of Atlético with an inspirational 3-0 aggregate win. They have also shown their professionalism even when they are the favourites, as evidenced by the triumph against Porto.

There’s still work to be done, but it’s certainly not in the realms of being unbelievable. For now, it’s onto Saturday and it doesn’t get easier – Man City for a place in the Cup Final. Bring it on!

Written by Noah Robson (@Noahr24_)

Edited by Tom Coley (@tomcoley49)

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