Chelsea see off Porto despite Mehdi Taremi’s late spectacular

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Sid Lowe at the Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán Stadium, Seville
·5-min read
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<span>Photograph: Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Marcelo del Pozo/Reuters

Chelsea went back to Seville six days on and back to the Champions League semi-finals seven years later. A 2-0 win over Porto here last week ultimately proved enough, Thomas Tuchel’s team returning to the same stadium to defend that lead and edge into the next round, where Real Madrid or Liverpool await. They may be entitled to believe that the journey can continue, too; there will be tougher tests but this is not a team easily undone nor distracted, even if they were denied another clean sheet by an extraordinary last-minute goal from Mehdi Taremi.

This never looked in any doubt until then, and suddenly there was a nervous moment when Porto appealed for a penalty immediately after the goal. But if that briefly brought nerves, it had come too late for Chelsea to suffer for long. Before the ball flew past Édouard Mendy, Porto had threatened only occasionally.

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Porto’s chances of advancing from this tie were in effect ended with Ben Chilwell’s late goal in a first leg in which they should have got more, thus putting the tie beyond Taremi’s overhead kick late in the second.

Porto may wonder how different things could have been had Taremi played more than 30 minutes across the two games, or had this moment of magic arrived a little sooner. Chelsea will feel that while they got caught at the end, they controlled proceedings on a night when not much happened, which was fine by them.

This is a team with some limitations but very much a team with a plan. Don’t lose your heads, Tuchel had urged his players, and they did not. That was hardly likely when their natural style suited this scenario, organisation above adventure. And even if Porto’s first advance into their area took just 43 seconds, Chelsea were confident they could keep their opponents at arm’s length.

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Mostly, they did. Porto did start brightly, if not all-out, Jesús Corona was mobile and keen to run on the right and Moussa Marega was a presence around the area, building a battle with Antonio Rüdiger. Marega’s first shot, though, was scuffed, an echo of the first leg.

And like last Wednesday, Chelsea were comfortable waiting for their moment to spring, whether that was a ball to the front three or the typically impressive N’Golo Kanté dashing through carrying it.

Thomas Tuchel celebrates with Jorginho but Thiago Silva sits on the ground
Thomas Tuchel celebrates with Jorginho but Thiago Silva sitting on the ground shows that Chelsea had to work. Photograph: Angel Fernandez/AP

Christian Pulisic found Mason Mount, whose shot was deflected over the bar before Kanté twice led them out. The first time, he raced almost to the byline, turned Wilson Manafá and set up Pulisic to roll across for Reece James, who pulled wide. The second saw him release Kai Havertz into the area, forcing Pepe to dive before the attacker.

At the other end, Corona had Porto’s best opportunities, the first a rare gift from Chelsea, Mendy playing the ball straight to his feet and forcing Jorginho to react quickly to rescue the situation and deflect into the side‑netting.

Corona’s second chance came when he brought down a high ball and turned Chilwell in one smart movement. Now behind the Englishman, Corona might have pressed on but the ball sat up, asking to be struck, so he did. It flew into the Pride of London banner in the empty stand.

Shots were few, stoppages many. As half-time came and went, Porto had a decision to make: at what point should they risk exposing themselves to the goal that would end this in order to seek more insistently the goal that would truly put them in it? How long too before Taremi was introduced?

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He made an entrance on the hour, and was almost immediately on the end of a neat move from Corona and Otávio, Mendy diving low to save his header. Porto had needed that, if only to believe this was possible. But the ball would not drop to Taremi again until it was too late.

Porto had started the second half brightly, pressing higher, but were largely limited to hopeful crosses.

Chelsea worked the ball out well for the most part, holding possession and occasionally incisive when they attacked, which was more often now. Pulisic could not get a full contact on Chilwell’s cutback by the six-yard box. Then Kanté played Mount into the area, Manafá blocking as the attacker pulled the trigger. Next, Pepe blocked Pulisic.

Porto kept looking, albeit with little clarity, Sérgio Conceição making a triple change in search of something. Chelsea’s defence remained a formidable barrier and their forwards still a threat.

Thiago Silva stretch to clear close to goal at one end and Pulisic might have ended it on 93 minutes at the other, before Taremi leapt to smash an astonishing overhead kick into the net.

It was the best moment of the tie, some small reward for a team that deserved more, but it did not alter its outcome nor prevent Chelsea’s passage.