Champions League review: Chelsea 2 – 1 Porto (Agg: 3-2)

Match reports

Daily Telegraph, John Ley: “Having drawn 1-1 in Portugal, Chelsea started as favourites but a goal from Ricardo Quaresma in the 15th minute left Chelsea chasing the game and with Jose Mourinho’s future in doubt – until the 48th minute when Arjen Robben’s tame shot was mis-handled by Porto’s hapless goalkeeper, Helton, and the ball found its way into the net.”

The Times, Matt Hughes: “Robben’s ball to Lassana Diarra down the right was returned to him in a more propitious position on the edge of the area, with his low left-foot shot somehow finding its way through the body of Helton. It was a horrendous error from the Brazilian, but Robben celebrated as if he had scored the goal of the season. In terms of importance he may not be wrong.”

Daily Mail, Neil Ashton: “While there is no doubting Robben’s ability on the ball, there is a side to his game that is not welcome in English football and he was rightly booked after his theatrical dive over Fucile’s outstretched leg 10 minutes before the break.”

The Independent, Jason Burt: “Ashley Cole slung in a deep centre, which was headed by Didier Drogba to Andrei Shevchenko. Showing admirable presence of mind the Ukrainian headed back across goal for Michael Ballack to volley in the winner. Previously anonymous, the German remains an enigma. But Mourinho is convinced Ballack could prove decisive in the quest to win this trophy.”

The Guardian, Matt Scott: “It was fitting that the man whose goal would decide this pulsating encounter should be Michael Ballack, the man in whom he had placed his faith amid so much criticism. After hinting on Monday that he will not be long of west London, Mourinho is setting about his legacy in this competition. It could yet be engraved on the European Cup.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “It had been a difficult night against accomplished opponents and Mourinho’s men had not been at their best. But by the end, the blue flags, given out in their thousands to the crowd, were flying high.”

The goals

15′ Quaresma 0-1
48′ Robben 1-1
79′ Ballack 2-1

The good

  1. Jose Mourinho. Turned around what looked like a lost cause. It could be said that it was his fault we were in trouble at half time, although there was little he could do to prepare for what he witnessed in the first forty-five minutes. Obviously said the right things at half time and replaced the ineffective Claude Makelele with John Obi Mikel, which made all the difference.
  2. Didier Drogba. A one-man Blue army. We’d be screwed without him.
  3. Ashley Cole and Lassana Diarra. Our full-backs were the best of a poor lot in the first half, and maintained it in the second. Mourinho played safe and brought Diarra off after he was booked, but the 21 year-old had already done enough to prove he’s far better and more versatile than Makelele who looks like he’s coming to the end of a magnificent career.
  4. Michael Essien and Ricardo Carvalho. Essien was at fault for Porto’s goal, but you can forgive him the odd mistake for obvious reasons. He was quite simply outstanding for the rest of the game – there are no superlatives left to describe him. Carvalho put in another distinguished performance.
  5. Michael’s Ballack goal. Great all round, from Cole’s cross to Drogba and Shevchenko’s cushioned headers. The ball was slightly behind Ballack but he still managed to slot it past Helton, who apparently is Brazil’s number one goalkeeper. The goal Helton gifted a hard-working Arjen Robben (I’ll gloss over his dive) that let us back in the tie would suggest there’s a dearth of keepers in Brazil.
  6. Andriy Shevchenko. Still a class act even if he’s not knocking in the goals.

The bad

  1. The first half. Quite dreadful, perhaps the worst forty-five minutes we’ve played this season. Gave the ball away, got pressurised off the ball in every area of the pitch, and had a definite lack of drive and passion. A performance like that against a better team than Porto and it would have been goodnight Athens.
  2. Frank Lampard. A little controversial maybe, but he was really poor tonight. His passing in the first half left a lot to be desired and he gave the ball away on numerous occasions. (Ballack was slightly better, not great but made up for it with a goal.) Is the Lampard/Ballack midfield pairing a failed experiment? I’m beginning to think so. They both improved once Obi Mikel was introduced, but that wasn’t hard given their showings in the first half.
  3. Claude Makelele. In two big games in the last ten days we have played poorly and gone a goal down with Makelele in the starting line-up. On both occasions we turned it around and emerged 2-1 winners after Makelele was substituted. A coincidence?

Man of the Match

A tough one. Ashley Cole, Michael Essien, Didier Drogba, or even John Obi Mikel? You decide.

Final thoughts

Jose Mourinho continues to work his magic. Roman Abramovich looked pretty pleased, smiling when the final whistle blew and shaking his head as if wondering how Mourinho pulls these things off. The Champions League dream is still alive – what’s the betting we draw Liverpool in the quarter-finals?

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