Champions League Flashback: Chelsea Edge Past Porto in 2007 Encounter

Chelsea edge past Porto

With these two sides set to battle it out for a spot in the semi-final of the Champions League, we go back to 2007 in a game that sees Chelsea edge past Porto at Stamford Bridge.

After the first leg ended all square in Portugal, Chelsea fell behind in west London, but Arjen Robben and Michael Ballack sent the Blues to the quarter-finals.

Chelsea Edge Past Porto in 2007 Classic Encounter

Back Then

An epitome of change between then and now was a man in the dugout at Stamford Bridge. No, it wasn’t then Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, who’d won the Champions League with Porto three years earlier. It was a member of his coaching staff, then 29-year-old Andre Villas-Boas. ‘AVB’ was still in the scouting and coaching part of his job, as he looked on, little did we know he’d manage both teams in the future.

Chelsea went into this second leg of this last 16 tie with a narrow advantage. Andriy Shevchenko’s goal at the Dragao two weeks earlier had given them a 1-1 draw and an away goal lead. Porto were on the back foot as they made the trip to London and hadn’t gone past the last 16 since Mourinho took them to triumph in 2004.

Tactical Setup

Despite a narrow advantage, Chelsea went into this game with something of an injury crisis. There was no John Terry in defence and no backup. As a result, Michael Essien had to play makeshift partner to Ricardo Carvalho, while Lassana Diarra was at right-back. Upfront, Mourinho’s plan of Didier Drogba and Shevchenko in attack with only one winger in Arjen Robben suggested a plan to attacking from the narrow points. Robben was given room to roam in both flanks, while Chelsea’s main wide threat was from left-back Ashley Cole.

Porto planned to hit on the break. Hence, Ricardo Quaresma and Lisandro Lopez were deployed as wide-forwards. Quaresma was given the licence to stay forward even when defending, to give them a counter-attacking threat.

First Half – Quaresma Punctures Blunt Chelsea

But when the first goal came, from Porto, and it was carefully crafted by Jesualdo Ferreira’s side. A handful of simple and effective passes – from Pepe to Lisandro Lopez to Lucho Gonzalez – and the ball fell to Quaresma, who slotted past Petr Cech inside 15 minutes. It was also a goal that showed Chelsea’s incoherent defence, who were at sixes and sevens.

It was a rather quiet first half and a tame one from Chelsea. The Blues constantly relied on Robben’s movement and Cole’s crosses to find a way, instead of any structured attack. It didn’t work; the Blues didn’t trouble Porto’s defence until the 24th minute, even that wasn’t threatening. Helton in the Porto goal was largely untested, and the hosts didn’t manage a single shot on target all half. The biggest talking point was Robben getting booked for simulation.

Second Half – Helton Hands Chelsea Lifeline

Chelsea came into the second half with much more intent and urgency, even though there was still minimal threat. The Blues managed their first shot on target three minutes in, but a Robben shot was meant to be catching practice for Helton in goal. Instead, Porto’s goalkeeper made a complete hash of a routine save, and gifted Chelsea an equaliser.

The second period followed the first in containing very few chances and few talking points. But this time it was Porto who were very much the more subdued team. Ferreira watched as his side couldn’t muster any real attacking threat, bar a few free-kicks. Any potentially promising attacking foray ended with a poor shot or a poor pass.

And Porto would be punished in the 78th minute when Chelsea went direct. A cross from Cole finally went right, and via the heads of Drogba and Shevchenko, the ball fell to Ballack, who couldn’t miss. Now, Porto had to score to prevent elimination, but a goal was never coming. Chelsea were more than happy to wind down the clock, and Porto provided no real urgency in their play despite being behind, just desperation. Once again, Jose Mourinho had played chicken, and his opponent had blinked.

What Happened Next?

Porto exited the competition but would go on to win a 22nd Portuguese league title. They would be back in the Champions League again the next season, and once again they’d fall again in the Last 16, to Schalke this time.

For Chelsea, they headed to a quarter-final with Valencia, another subdued time they’d win 3-2 on aggregate. But the semi-final would be a bridge too far as they lost on penalties to old foes Liverpool. It would also be the last knockout games for Chelsea in the first spell of Jose Mourinho.

With the two teams set to face each other once again in this year’s quarter-final, will Chelsea edge past Porto again or will the Portuguese find a way past Thomas Tuchel’s side?

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