Chelsea beat Porto 2-0 in the away leg of their Champions League quarter final in Seville last night, but they never looked quite as comfortable as that final score suggests.
There were moments of real defensive quality, some nice passages in midfield, and a couple of brilliant touches in attack, but ultimately it was a tense match where their attacking game was largely ineffective.
None of the starting front three saw much of the ball in the first half, and Olivier Giroud didn’t fare much better when he came on after the break. Neither Kai Havertz as a false 9 nor Giroud as a proper one had much luck linking up with their teammates, even as the game got more stretched.
Mateo Kovacic and Jorginho ended up with solid performances to look back on, but neither could say they were fully comfortable for most of the 90 minutes, and the back three and goalkeeper were nervy in moving the ball forwards.
Speaking after the game, Thomas Tuchel admitted that he hadn’t seen the fluent attacking performance he was hoping for:
“I accept that it was a tough match for Timo and for Kai today, they did not have their best day and we did not deliver so good, the connection between the deep seven players that we needed for the build-up and the front three, we lost a bit the connection to them,” Tuchel confessed at full time.
“To have a bit more of an impact, the balls we delivered were not the best balls. I could feel our two German players up front, Kai and Timo, do not play on their highest level today so I wanted to have an impact from the bench,” the coach continued.
There was one raking pass in behind which Reece James whipped left-footed from deep on the right-hand side which Werner almost got on the end of, but apart from that there were few attempts to hit the attacking players early.
All too often Kovacic and Jorginho were unable to find space to receive the ball in, and time and again they were forced backwards and sideways.
James and Ben Chilwell provided much more threat out wide, and in the end the latter got the second goal. But there was a reluctance at times to play the risky long passes into the pair that could release them.
Porto are a tricky team, and they made that clear last night, but there’s no doubt we’re still left wanting more by the attacking play we see week-to-week at the moment. There are a lot of players competing for places, and few are truly convincing at the moment. We’ve seen so much better from them before, and if just a couple can get up to speed this side would be really dangerous.
Tammy Abraham and Callum Hudson-Odoi surely have to be given further chances to add some chemistry and goals to a rotating cast that still sometimes struggle to click. The Kai Havertz as a striker experience must also be near to its conclusion for now.
It’s another super result to add to the growing collection for Thomas Tuchel, but he knows as well as the rest of us that there is plenty more potential to unlock in this team.