Chelsea’s rocky start to the season continued as Jose Mourinho’s return to former club Porto ended in a 2-1 defeat at the Estadio do Dragao.
Willian’s superb free kick cancelled out Andre Andre’s first-half opener, but Porto defender Maicon headed home from a corner shortly after the break as Chelsea dropped to third in Group G.
Here, we round up the top talking points from another disappointing night for the Blues…
“To be a winner you must have a strong mentality every game, every day. At this moment, I don’t have untouchables.” Jose Mourinho stayed true to his word. After warning his players that their starting spots were not guaranteed, the Chelsea manager demoted Eden Hazard and Nemanja Matic to the bench and left Oscar, Loic Remy and Radamel Falcao out of his squad altogether following Saturday’s 2-2 draw at Newcastle.
The changes did not have the desired effect. Chelsea were second-best for long periods at the Estadio do Dragao, and Mourinho scowled on the touchline as Andre Andre gave Porto the lead. Willian’s free kick provided some temporary relief just before the half-time, but Maicon’s header put the hosts back in front in the 52nd minute.
Mourinho threw on Hazard and Matic in an attempt to rescue a point in the closing stages, but Porto ran out deserved winners with 22 shots to Chelsea’s 12. Mourinho’s post-match assessment was generous. “It was a good performance with two ridiculous mistakes,” he said. “Sometimes you make them and are not punished. We were punished.”
The Blues will still be confident of progressing from Group G with Maccabi Tel Aviv and Dynamo Kiev as their other rivals, but these are troubling times – regardless of what Mourinho says. Chelsea only lost four times in 54 games in 2014/15; this season they have already lost five.
Ivanovic’s struggles continue
John Terry, Gary Cahill, Hazard and Matic have all been dropped at various points this season, but Branislav Ivanovic somehow continues to cling to his place. Despite a string of sub-par performances, the Serb has played every minute of every game with the exception of their 4-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv. Mourinho refused to criticise his players after the game, but privately his patience must be wearing thin.
Porto had clearly been watching Ivanovic’s recent displays as they persistently targeted Chelsea’s right-flank, where Yacine Brahimi ran their stand-in captain ragged. Brahimi completed 10 dribbles in total, one of which took him easily past Ivanovic to cross for Porto’s opening goal.
Each member of Chelsea’s back four struggled, and conceding the second from a set piece showed a collective lack of organisation, but Ivanovic was particularly vulnerable. He fared little better going forward, either. He had a golden opportunity to equalise in the 74th minute, but his free header from Cesc Fabregas’ corner sailed wide of Porto’s gaping goal after Iker Casillas had been caught in no man’s land.
Diego Costa returns
Diego Costa is still serving his three-match ban for violent conduct against Arsenal, but European competition gave him the chance to return to their starting line-up. All eyes were on the striker to see if he could keep his temper in check, and aside from a brief confrontation with Vincent Aboubakar he managed it.
In fact, he was arguably Chelsea’s top performer. There was some excellent build-up play to lay on a shooting chance for Fabregas early on, and he also struck the underside of the bar with a superb, curling effort from outside the box shortly after Porto’s second goal.
Costa had more shots (three) and completed more dribbles (four) than any of his team-mates, and his pass accuracy of 85 per cent was also the highest among Mourinho’s starting XI. He may have only scored twice for Chelsea this season, but this performance was a reminder of how much they will miss him when he completes his suspension against Southampton this weekend.
Chelsea denied penalty
While there can be few arguments that Porto deserved the three points, Chelsea will count themselves desperately unlucky not to have been awarded a penalty in the closing stages.
Replays showed Porto centre-back Ivan Marcano clearly handled Costa’s cross, but the referee signalled a corner instead despite Chelsea’s protestations.
Mourinho described it as a “clear penalty” after the match, and they might have had another earlier in the contest when Eden Hazard stayed on his feet despite a late challenge from a Porto defender.
Chelsea’s 4-0 win over Maccabi Tel Aviv ensures their Group G standing is not too precarious, but their next challenge is to get their Premier League form back on track against Southampton on Saturday. They will need a much-improved performance at Stamford Bridge.