UEFA Champions League
Stamford Bridge, London, England
12′ Marcano (OG)
Chelsea managed to defeat their manager’s former side by two goals to nil to top Group G and qualify for the last-16 round of the Champions League. An own goal by Iván Marcano and a ferocious strike from Willian proved to be critical as it knocked the 2004 Champions out of the competition and demoted them into the Europa League.
The home side started well, knowing that a point would seal automatic qualification, and a win would see them top the group.
However, José Mourinho’s former side weren’t shy off-the-mark, and looked to threaten on the break with Yacine Brahimi stinging the palms of Thibaut Courtois from a tight-angle early on.
In the 12th minute, the home side took the lead. Eden Hazard found Diego Costa, and after his shot was initially well-saved by Iker Casillas, the loose ball ricocheted just over the line by the unfortunate Iván Marcano.
In the 18th minute, the home side felt that they should’ve had a penalty. Oscar was impeded by Marcano as he entered the box, but the referee waved play on.
In the 27th minute, the Blues almost doubled their lead. A nice one-two by Oscar and Willian, enabled the former to shoot inches wide via a deflection.
Since the chance, both sides cancelled each other out in what became a tightly contested period in the game.
In the 41st minute, Brahimi found space before testing Courtois, with the Belgian gathering at the second attempt.
Late on in the half, Oscar found Costa, and the Brazilian-born striker did well to force Casillas into making a fingertip-save, which may have been going wide, from a tight angle. The resulting corner was punched away by Casillas as the referee blew his whistle to bring an entertaining first 45 minutes to an end.
The second period began in similar fashion to the first, with the home side dominating. They came close to finding their second with Costa finding Willian, and the latter’s effort was pushed away by Casillas, and the loose ball just managed to evade the lurking Costa.
The away side looked to level immediately on the break with Jesús Corona, but his dipping effort was straightforward for Courtois. Minutes later, Brahimi cut-inside before firing off-target.
In the 52nd minute, the Blues managed to extend their lead. Hazard found Willian in space, who fired past Casillas at his near post, from a similar range to which Casillas made the save a few minutes earlier. It was his seventh goal of the season, and the first in open-play (six freekicks).
In the 55th minute the visitors made a double substitution with Giannelli Imbula departing for Vincent Aboubakar and Rúben Neves replacing Maxi Pereira.
In the 63rd minute, Brahimi came close to pulling one back, but his deflected effort curled narrowly wide.
In the 68th minute, Costa was played through on goal only to be denied by a strong Danilo challenge. A minute later, the visitors made their final change bringing on Cristian Tello (on-loan from Barcelona) for Héctor Herrera.
Soon after, Oscar almost put the game to bed, he tried a nice intricate back-heel that Casillas did well to hold on to.
In the 77th minute, the Portuguese side came close to breaking the deadlock, substitute Tello cut-inside before forcing a fine save from Courtois, who turned it behind, although it appeared it was going wide. The resulting corner came to nothing.
A minute later and Diego Costa was played through on-goal again, but this time his touch was poor and that enabled Casillas to claim with relative ease.
Minutes later Hazard came close to making it three, but his header was easy for the former Real Madrid keeper. He came even closer soon after, skipping past two defenders before firing against the near post.
In the 80th minute, the first Chelsea change saw Oscar taken off for Pedro. Five minutes later, Costa made way for John Obi-Mikel, and received a great reception from the home crowd after a hard-working display.
Four minutes later, the Blues made their final change bringing on Loïc Remy for the impressive Hazard. He almost made an immediate impact, slicing an effort wide from Pedro’s pass.
Late on a Brahimi volley curled just wide, in what was the last action of the game as an impressive Chelsea beat former Champions League Champions Porto two-nil to go top of Group G.
The victory for the Blues meant that they finish the group stage on top of Group G on 13 points. Porto needed to win as other results didn’t go their way: Dynamo Kyiv managed to defeat Maccabi Tel-Aviv by two goals to nil, and as a result of that result, the Portuguese side were leapfrogged by the Ukrainian side and finished in third place. Due to finishing in third, they will play in the knock-out stages of the Europa League.
Dynamo Kyiv’s victory over Maccabi meant that they finished second instead on 11 points and qualified for the last-16. Israeli side Maccabi finished bottom of the group in fourth without a point, and that meant their European campaign had come to an end.