This was the last night of the group stages of the Champions League. Chelsea travelled to the holders Porto with Jose Mourinho looking to go home from Portugal with the victory under his belt. The papers had hyped the game up saying that Mourinho had received death threats and certain Porto fans were out for his blood. It makes you wonder if the papers like to stir up trouble, but maybe that’s me being over critical, or is it? Porto had drawn their last three home games at the Estádio do Dragão 0-0 in the Champions League and no British club had gone to Porto and won before. Man Utd went there last season and were defeated 2-1 so could this be Chelsea’s chance to be the first club to win there?
Jose Mourinho made some changes from the weekend’s 4-0 Premiership victory over Newcastle. The defence remained the same but Mourinho started with a diamond 4-4-2 formation. In midfield Scott Parker came in for Claude Makelele, on the left of the diamond was Wayne Bridge; on the right hand side was Alexey Smertin with Frank Lampard at the head of the diamond. Playing up front was Damien Duff and Didier Drogba. Porto started the game in second place in the group and needed the victory to ensure they went through in second place. We had already won the group five weeks ago after our 0-1-win in Moscow against CSKA, thanks to a goal by Arjen Robben. Tonight CSKA were away in Paris playing PSG, so if Porto didn’t get either a draw or a victory then the holders could have gone crashing out without even getting into the UEFA Cup, something that had never happened in the Champions League at the first stage to the holders of the European Cup before.
The game started quite brightly, Porto had the first opportunity for a shot on target in the second minute. However Cech smothered Fabiano’s shot after it had no real pace. A couple of minutes after it could have been 0-1 Chelsea. Some great build up play lead to Damien Duff getting the ball on the right, with all Duffers jinking skills he crossed low, Frank Lampard missed his shot but the ball found Wayne Bridge who shot low with his right foot but sent the ball whistling just past the right hand post. On the 11th minute again it could have been 0-1, Damien Duff again cut the ball back to Frank Lampard who’s cross found Didier Drogba, with a powerful header on target the ball looked like it was heading for the net, however, Nuno in the Porto goal was able to get a hand to it and direct it onto the crossbar, when the ball came back into play it was eventually cleared.
After Drogba’s effort the game got decidedly niggly with fouls on Didier Drogba and Duff especially. The foul on Drogba by Jorge Costa left him down for a while after Costa had scraped his studs down the Ivory Coast player’s calf. The challenge resulted in Costa getting booked and thus missing the next game. When the game calmed down a bit it was Chelsea who were making the entire running, Porto were having problems finding a way through our defence. In the 34th minute the first goal of the night came and it was Damien Duff who was on the score sheet yet again. A great move by Bridge, Lampard and Drogba found Duffer on the right, he cut inside and had a shot on target, it looked like it may have taken a slight deflection off of a Porto defender but the ball went through the limp hand of Nuno and into the back of the net. It was a deserved lead, as Porto’s attack hadn’t troubled us at all.
Half time came and it looked like we’d go on and maybe score again in the second half, as Porto would have to come and attack more. The game stayed at 0-1 until the 60th minute, however a minute before that Diego probably had the best Porto effort of the night up until then, his shot was blocked by Ferreira and cleared. A minute later though it was 1-1. It was that man Diego who scored this time; the ball rebounded out to him after a shot on Cech’s goal and with a sweet volley the ball flew past Petr Cech. It was quite a surprise because Porto had had about as much life to them as a wet rag during the game. Maybe Chelsea felt they were in the comfort zone before the goal but this woke them up. With CSKA Moscow winning 1-3 in Paris the only way now for Porto to get through to the next stage was by winning and unfortunately they were the ones that got the winner.
In the 86th minute a Quaresma cross found the very dangerous Benny McCarthy who’d scored at Stamford Bridge when we won 3-1, he rose above William Gallas to nod the ball down into the left hand corner of the net past Cech. A minute before Porto had gone 2-1 up however Chelsea could and should have had a penalty, Frank Lampard looked as though he was held back while in the penalty area before he was about to shoot, but the referee who was very poor didn’t see it. The whistle went at full time and it was Porto who progressed along with us to the second stage of the competition. It was only our second defeat of the season; this one in a way didn’t matter as we’d already gone through. The big test will come on Sunday when we go to Highbury to face the Gunners.
Roll on Sunday; remember to get the beers in because we’ll go eight points clear!
Porto: Nuno, Jorge Costa, Pedro Emanuel, Costinha, Luis Fabiano (Postiga 75), Derlei (Quaresma 59), Areias, Diego (Cesar Peixoto), Maniche, Seitaridis, McCarthy.
Subs Not Used: Rui Sacramento, Ricardo Costa, Pepe, Bosingwa
Chelsea: Cech, Gallas,, Terry, Carvalho, Ferreira, Smertin (Tiago 65), Lampard, Parker, Bridge, Duff (Robben 54), Drogba (Kezman 77)
Subs Not Used: Cudicini, Makelele, Geremi, Gudjohnsen.
Referee: Massimo Busacca (Switzerland)