Game 2 of the Champions League group stage brought two familiar adversaries together at the Estádio do Dragão. Porto and Chelsea have a lot of recent history in this competition, but also through players and coaches who have been shared between the clubs.
Both sides made changes going into this game. Porto brought in Dutch international Bruno Martins Indi to replace Layún at left-back while Chelsea swapped Nemanja Matić for John Mikel Obi and also replaced Eden Hazard with Willian.
Casillas denies Chelsea early lead
It was the home side who had the first sight of goal in this game. As early as the 2nd minute, Brahimi fired a shot straight at Begović in the Chelsea goal, but it was easily dealt with by the Bosnian stopper. Meanwhile, at the other end, good work by Diego Costa teed up Cesc Fàbregas on the edge of the box to fire low to Casillas’ right. The Spanish ‘keeper was equal to it though and palmed the ball around the post.
In the 13th minute, Casillas was again called into action as ex-Barca man, Pedro, was played through on goal by Willian. The Spaniard got in between the covering Marcano and Martins Indi and aimed a low shot at Casillas who again kept the scores at parity.
On the half hour, Porto came alive and Maxi turned Willian inside out - the Brazilian covering for Azpilicueta - but his shot was deflected behind by the aforementioned Spanish left-back. Four minutes after that, Aboubakar took possession and checked inside of Ivanović before unleashing a powerful shot from range which cleared Asmir Begović’s upright.
A further effort wide from Maxi Pereira was followed on 39 minutes by the first goal of the evening. Brahimi took on Ivanović for the first real time in the game and beat the Serbian all ends up, forcing a superb parry out of Begović. The Bosnian could only watch as the ball sat invitingly around the penalty spot for André André to take full advantage and hit the back of the net.
As the first half looked to be drawing to a close with the home side in the driver’s seat, Chelsea were awarded a free-kick approximately 25-30 yards out. It was Willian who struck it and Casillas stayed rooted to the ground as the English side drew level. Only the harshest critic could deny both sides deserved to be going in level at half-time and, indeed, Antonio Mateu Lahoz blew his whistle to signal the break while the Chelsea players were still celebrating.
Porto take over in thrilling second half
The second half couldn’t have been any more different to the first. Drama, goals and chances galore! And it was Chelsea who got the ball rolling (no pun intended!) when Willian’s good work down the left set up Diego Costa in the box. Maicon managed to get in the way to deflect his shot behind for a corner though. Rúben Neves then tested his shooting boots from about 25 yards out but fired just over the bar.
On 52 minutes, the home side regained the lead when a Rúben Neves corner was headed home at the near post by Maicon. The Brazilian beat his compatriot, Ramires, to the ball and Begović was left with no chance - 2-1 to the Dragões.
Porto’s second goal brought an instant riposte from Chelsea and Diego Costa rattled the crossbar from the edge of the box, Casillas well beaten. And Costa was again unfortunate when, three minutes later, Pedro’s low cross was whipped in at pace, ultimately eluding his fellow Spain international.
Eden Hazard entered the fray on 62 minutes and, two minutes later, was involved as Pedro played him into the box. However, Maicon was on hand to put the Belgian under pressure and he ended up shooting into the side netting from a reasonably acute angle.
With twenty minutes to go Aboubakar fired narrowly over the bar from just outside the box and, as Porto ramped up the pressure on Chelsea, both Imbula and Danilo Pereira forced excellent saves out of Asmir Begović. Brahimi was again involved as was André André, who had looked superb in the Porto midfield. The spell of pressure also encouraged the Portistas inside the stadium and they responded in kind by providing a superb atmosphere.
On 74 minutes, a Willian corner was met by the head of Chelsea captain, Branislav Ivanović but it sailed about a foot wide of Casillas’ far post.
Rúben Neves, who was quite outstanding from the start, was replaced by Evandro on 78 minutes and deservedly given a standing ovation by those present in the Dragão, and the same was also afforded to the ever-improving André André two minutes later. The latter was replaced by Mexican, Miguel Layún.
A minute later, Danilo Pereira hit the post with a powerful header from a corner, in what would’ve been by no means undeserved. But there was more drama in stoppage time as Diego Costa surged forward for Chelsea and, whilst going into the box, the ball appeared to hit the arm of Marcano. The referee waved play on and Porto deservedly took the points.
Porto midfield shines
Over the 90 minutes, Porto were thoroughly deserving victors. In fact, one could question how they didn’t win by more. The midfield of Danilo Pereira, Rúben Neves, Imbula and André André were quite simply superb. The work rate and commitment made them worthy winners. Brahimi caused plenty of problems for Ivanović down the left and Aboubakar was a match for Cahill and Zouma in the middle. It should also not be forgotten that Casillas pulled two superb saves out of the bag early in the game, keeping Porto on level terms.
Lopetegui will be justifiably proud of his players tonight and this win will fill the side with belief that they can qualify for the knockout phase of the competition, perhaps in 1st place. And if they can continue to perform as they did tonight, it’ll be up to Pinto da Costa to keep the moneyed clubs from other leagues from tempting this talented squad away.
by Paul Gellard
Porto: Casillas, Maxi Pereira, Maicon, Marcano, Martins Indi, Danilo, Rúben Neves (Evandro 78), Imbula, Brahimi (Osvaldo 86), André André (Layún 80), Aboubakar
Chelsea: Begović, Ivanović, Zouma, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Mikel (Hazard 62), Fàbregas, Ramires (Matić 73), Willian, Pedro (Kenedy 73), Diego Costa
[1-0] André André, 39'
[1-1] Willian, 45'
[2-1] Maicon, 52'