Chelsea secured top spot in their Champions League group and booked a spot in the last 16 with a 2-0 victory against Porto. An own goal from Ivan Marcano and a second half strike from Willian put the Blues through, and sent Porto in to the Europa League. After their recent league struggles, could this finally be the point where Jose Mourinho and his team turn their season around?
Diego Costa was given a recall ahead of this game, as Mourinho decided to drop the false nine system he had been trying. Cesc Fabregas was dropped, which was hardly surprising given his form this term. Ramires made it back from injury to replace the Spaniard, while John Terry also returned, coming in for Gary Cahill at centre half. There was also a first Champions League game of the season for Thibaut Courtois.
Costa’s presence up front delivered a very changed performance, as the forward was prepared to run in behind to stretch the visiting defence. In fact, the first goal of the night was almost all down to Costa. His run was picked out by Eden Hazard, and the former Atletico Madrid man got clear to shoot. His shot was blocked by the keeper, but a deflection off Marcano saw it bounce in to the net. It was exactly what their bright start deserved.
The best sign was the way that Chelsea maintained their intensity in the first half after that goal. They kept control of the game, pushing for a second goal. At times the team have looked panicked after scoring the opener, and tried to defend at all costs. That wasn’t the case here, as our attacking stars ripped through the Porto defence. While they couldn’t get a second goal before half time, they were great value for their lead.
With Dynamo Kiev beating Maccabi Tel-Aviv, the Blues knew this was a must win game. They would take top spot with a win, while a defeat would have seen Porto take their place in the next round. That’s what made getting a second goal so important, as it would practically wrap up a qualifying spot from this group.
Some great work from the forwards created the second goal, with Costa again involved. He held the ball up and then laid it off to Eden Hazard, and the Belgian was able to pick out Willian’s run. The Brazilian has almost single handily kept Chelsea alive in this tournament, so it was fitting that he scored the all-important goal that sent them through.
That puts the Blues into the hat for Monday’s draw, with PSG, Juventus, Gent, PSV Eindhoven, Roma and Benfica the possible opponents. Monday is a huge day for the team, as not only will they find out their next Champions League hurdle, they also face a trip to league leaders Leicester, a team they trail by 17 points.
LCN Man of the Match: (Yet again!) Willian