Chelsea 2-0 Porto: Finally! A Performance of Champions!
Chelsea advanced into the last sixteen of the Champions League with a 2-0 victory over FC Porto l...
Chelsea advanced into the last sixteen of the Champions League with a 2-0 victory over FC Porto last night and finally delivered a performance of Champions!
For weeks on end Chelsea have threatened to deliver in games but for one reason or another, it never happened. For the course of the season so far, we never knew what type of performance we would be sitting there watching winning one week, then losing games the week after.
As I strode into Stamford Bridge last night I was genuinely nervous. It was without question the biggest game of our season so far and with our current predicament in the Premier League, it's almost the only chance we have of reaching the Champions League next season by winning it for a second time in four seasons.
Jose Mourinho had taken a brave decision to drop Gary Cahill and Cesc Fabregas who have huge Champions League experience in favour of John Terry and Ramires and to his credit, it worked an absolute treat!
Chelsea played like Champions and most importantly of all, like a team full of confidence which is credit to them after the Bournemouth debacle last weekend. Their passing was good, their pace to their play was good and we finally had movement off the ball.
I have said previously that with Cahill and Zouma, they are at their best with JT next to them because he organises and talks them through games. Both JT and Zouma were imperious last night and gave the team a solid base to build from.
If anything was played in behind Zouma was there to mop things up or to just stand his ground and ease their attackers out of the way for Courtois to collect or to clear the ball away from danger. JT made two or three outstanding blocks/tackles within the space of five minutes in the second half as Porto pressed forward.
Cesar Azpilicueta and Branislav Ivanovic did well with the Spaniard making a point for being dropped last weekend and the point was heard loud and clear. Both of them did their jobs well next to JT and Zouma and formed a defensive wall in front of Thibaut Courtois. The big man had a good game too!
Ramires playing alongside man of the match Nemanja Matic (for me anyway) does something to the big Serb. It's almost like he knows that he can play HIS role in that position better because he knows that Ramires will run around all day throwing himself into tackles. He doesn't have to cover when he plays alongside Cesc Fabregas and it really shows.
Ramires was as busy as ever and lets be honest, we didn't miss Fabregas in the game because we had a purpose about our play. Matic however was sublime and imperious in midfield. Whether it was winning tackles and breaking up their play, his use of the ball when in possession or just his overall presence in that midfield area, we never looked like allowing Porto to dictate the ball. OK, there may have been ten minutes or so in the second half but that was about it and it was a massive improvement from recent weeks.
Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian all played their part and caused Porto plenty of problems the whole game. I love watching these three play together when they are on song and their link up play and interchange is great to watch. Countless times my mates would turn to me in the Matthew Harding and say "We are playing some great football here" and they were spot on.
I do feel sorry for Oscar because he ALWAYS gets replaced in the second half. He works so, so hard without the ball and is a constant threat with it. Whether or not the manager is looking after him at a young age at this moment in his career to ensure he doesn't burn out? We will never know but for me Oscar should be our nailed on starter in the number ten role.
Eden Hazard is now back to where he should be and although it's taken a while, it's so good to see. Whenever he picks the ball up and faces up to his defender, you just know he is going to beat him and the defenders he faces know it also. Hazard was outstanding last night and unlucky not to score in the second half when he hit the post as he tried to beat Iker Casillas at his near post.
What can you say about Willian that hasn't already been said? Apart from his delivery from corners (which still frustrates the life out of me) his overall play is always good. He is so quick with the ball at his feet and his movement with it in possession is a sight to behold.
It's his ability to spot a tackle coming, to then knock the ball ten yards away from danger, ride the tackle and move away STILL in possession that has become a feature of his game.
His goal was fantastic team play and a sweeping Chelsea move. The ball is played up to Costa who wins the ball, brings it down and lays it off to Hazard who has made a run off of him inside. Hazard collects the ball and steps across the pitch from left to right around thirty-five years out and plays it wide right to Willian who takes a touch towards the box and fires a shot low and hard towards goal and it beats Casillas at his near post! A fantastic move and finish!
As for Diego Costa? Well there is encouraging signs here now. For weeks on end I have criticised his movement off the ball. However, last night, especially in that first half, Costa showed glimpses of the Diego Costa from last season.
His movement was excellent and as our midfield or full backs picked up the ball and looked up, Costa was there calling for it or showing them where to pass it. Always a constant menace to defenders and his international team mate in Casillas in particular, Costa was excellent in that first half.
The first goal came from Costa doing what we ALL want him to do. We pick the ball up in the midfield area and he's off and running off his defender into the channel. He gets played through and he is in on goal bearing down on the Goalkeeper.
Unfortunately for Costa, he cannot find the finish to beat Casillas as he blocks his shot but the ball rebounds off the defender tracking back and finds it's way across the line before another defender clears it. The goal is given and Chelsea get their rewards with Costa getting his for his movement!
So there you have it. A night that started tense and with everyone sitting in the stands nervous, wondering what Chelsea performance the team could deliver, that finished with a performance of Champions and we are through to the last sixteen!
PSG or Juventus in the next round anyone?
My Man of the Match = Nemanja Matic.