Chelsea secured top spot in Group D after a second-half Nicolas Anelka header saw off Porto in a muted Estadio do Dragao. Many of the Porto fans elected to stay away due to both sides having already qualified for the next stage and were seemingly justified due to the drab nature of the encounter.
Both sides struggled to make an impact on the first half and were restricted to shots from range, with Chelsea proving the luckier following Fernando Belluschi’s crashing drive against Petr Cech’s crossbar. Prior to this, Chelsea did make some early running with Florent Malouda striking just wide on six minutes. Anelka then forced Beto into a smart save before Michael Ballack was unlucky not to hit the target following a deflection on his goal-bound effort. Lethargy then crept into Chelsea’s play a little, providing Porto with an opportunity to press the game more, which was duly taken up by Belluschi who tested Cech from 25 yards. All the Chelsea keeper was able to do was to palm the shot into the path of Radamel Falcao Garcia but was then up again smartly to save at the feet of the forward. This was only a marker of things to come as on 25, Cech was this time beaten by the Argentine Belluschi from distance with only the crossbar saving Chelsea from being behind at the break.
Chelsea forced the pace more in the second half with a returning Deco striking wide on 52 minutes followed by Malouda twice getting into good positions, but being unable to find anyone with his final ball. Chelsea were at times wasteful in possession, forcing Carlo Ancelotti’s hand to add some more drive into the midfield by introducing Michael Essien for Ballack. In the 69th minute Chelsea were able to put together a move of note when Yuri Zhirkov found Malouda inside the penalty area, with the Frenchman this time able to find a stooping Anelka who headed home the match winner. Substitute Ernesto Farias forced Cech to save a low drive on 80 minutes, but it was only a minor scare in an otherwise comfortable second half.
Carlo Ancelotti: “To win the group was the most important thing and we have reached our objective. To win here is not easy, but we got a good result and we’re happy. In the first half we were not so good, but after the break we played a lot better and we showed our personality.”
Jesualdo Ferreira: “The result does not show what we did on the pitch. We had some chances to score but we did not take them. Above all we had good attitude. Porto are not as efficient as Chelsea are – Chelsea have worked as a team for a very long time.”
Probably the most telling statistic to have come out of this encounter was the fact that Chelsea kept yet another clean sheet. In fact, the only team to have scored against them in this season’s Champions League has been Atletico Madrid, and the only player to have beaten Cech is Argentine starlet and possible Chelsea transfer target Sergio Aguero. This is exceptional considering the west Londoners have now played home and away against both Porto and Atletico – their two nearest challengers in Group D. Chelsea look to be mounting a considerable challenge on the Champions League this year, even at this early stage, and are clearly building on solid foundations at the back.
Ancelotti again made changes from the team which demolished Wolves at the weekend, bringing in the likes of Drogba, Ballack and Ricardo Carvalho into the side, but sticking with favoured diamond formation – Deco operating behind the front two of Anelka and Drogba. The forward players never really clicked together in this encounter as Chelsea were often wasteful all over the pitch. This may well be down to the muted atmosphere in the stadium, the fact they had already qualified from the group, and the huge Premier League match against Arsenal this weekend. In many ways this was a similar performance to that in Nicosia earlier in the group, a tie which Chelsea again won 1-0. The performance will not have pleased Ancelotti but the result will have greatly. The fact his team can stay solid at the back and grab a goal at the other end when their overall performance is poor is a great attribute and one which puts them in a good position to progress well in this competition.
Porto, on the other hand, never really forced Chelsea out of first gear which will have disappointed them on their home ground – they in fact only started to press with the two shots from Belluschi once they gained a little confidence from Chelsea’s indecisive play. Ferreira specifically pointed at the fact his team are not as efficient as Chelsea and, looking analytically at the second quarter of the game leading up to half-time, if his team were a little more efficient going forward they could well have broken the deadlock. This current Porto side seemed to lack that bit of quality in the final third which we have seen from previous teams – they were without the extra spark that players such as Deco and Luis Fabiano brought around the box when the game was tight.
The aim of this Porto side at the start of the competition will have been to progress through a relatively tough group, whereas Chelsea have done enough to get through and will now be looking to go on and win the competition. We may have witnessed two teams play out a close, but uninspiring, encounter last night, but what we have in fact witnessed following both their qualification is two teams at opposite ends of the Champions League spectrum come the next round.
Porto 0-1 Chelsea – Anelka 69
Porto (4-3-3): Beto – Sapunaru (Farias 79), Alves, Rolando, Pereira – Belluschi (Guarin 71), Fernando, Meireles – Varela (Hulk 59), Falcao, Rodriguez
Chelsea (4-3-1-2): Cech – Ivanovic, Terry, Carvalho, Zhirkov – Ballack (Essien 68), Mikel, Malouda – Deco (J Cole 76) – Anelka, Drogba
Porto – Chelsea
2 – Corners – 5
11 (6) – Shots (on target) – 10 (2)
15 – Fouls – 13
2 (0) – Yellow cards (Red) – 1 (0)
5 – Offside – 2