Cesc Fabregas, Branislav Ivanovic poor for Chelsea in 2-1 Porto loss
The ESPN FC crew discuss Chelsea’s continued poor performance, in both their domestic league and in the Champions League.
Chelsea’s nightmare start to the season continued in the Estadio Do Dragao where they slumped to a 2-1 Champions League defeat against Porto. In what was a thrilling, end-to-end encounter, the Portuguese side rode their luck but ultimately prevailed to register their 18th consecutive home win in all competitions.
Andre Andre opened the scoring in the 39th minute for the current Primeira League leaders, crashing the ball past Asmir Begovic, who had just made a spectacular save from Yacine Brahimi. Willian levelled in first half stoppage time with a samba-style free kick, but it was the Blues midfielder’s Brazilian countryman, Maicon, who settled the match with a header from a Ruben Neves corner which left Chelsea’s defence standing like statues.
Returning to face the club where he made his name as a manager, Jose Mourinho would have wished for a better outcome — but his starting XI lacked incisiveness and creativity and were undone once more by horrific defensive lapses. Yet again, questions will be asked about Mourinho’s loyalty to Branislav Ivanovic, caught short on the right side of defence for the umpteenth time this season, and the largely ineffective Cesc Fabregas.
With the London club’s natural-born leader John Terry spectating from the bench yet again, Chelsea looked spineless. This defeat and Dynamo Kiev’s 2-0 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel leaves the Blues in third place in Champions League Group G, which had been billed as a soft touch. Qualification remains possible, but Mourinho must find a way to stop the rot before Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich does the job for him.
Player Ratings (1-10; 10=best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Asmir Begovic, 6 – A night of mixed fortunes for Begovic, who made a number of important stops and spectacularly clawed out Brahimi’s effort, only to see Andre rifle home the rebound. Slow to react at the set piece situation from which Maicon headed home Porto’s winner.
DF Branislav Ivanovic, 4 – One of the great mysteries of the season remains unsolved. With alternative options available, why does Mourinho persist playing Ivanovic at right-back? Not only that, as he continues to exclude Terry, why does the Chelsea manager captain the Serb? Brahimi was the latest in a lengthening list of players to embarrass the Blues’ defender in the build-up to Porto’s first goal — who will be next?
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 6 – Assertive performance on the left side of defence, which eventually resulted in a yellow card when Andre Andre beat him once too often. Got forward well, and once again was the pick of Chelsea’s unreliable back line.
DF Gary Cahill, 5 – Exhausting night in the centre of defence. Struggled to cope with the physicality of Vincent Aboubakar, and was yellow-carded in the course of his many duels with the Cameroon international striker. Offered little in the way of coaching for youthful central defensive partner Kurt Zouma.
DF Kurt Zouma, 5 – Had a torrid evening trying to contain Ruben Neves and Andre Andre while trying to keep an eye on Brahimi for Ivanovic. Not helped by Cahill and lack of experience showed as Porto pressured to unravel a rudderless Chelsea back line.
mask what was at best an average performance from Mikel, who lacked authority and conviction and looked lightweight in midfield. Replaced by Eden Hazard just after the hour mark when Chelsea fell behind.
MF Ramires, 5 – Played further forward by Mourinho but lacked the creative zest of Hazard who was benched for the start of the game. Overlooked defensive responsibility and was eventually replaced by Nemanja Matic.
MF Pedro, 5 – Squandered a glorious chance to give Chelsea the lead inside 20 minutes, and was guilty of overrunning the ball on several occasions when faced with robust Porto defending. Ineffective in the second period and eventually replaced by Kenedy in the 73rd minute.
MF Cesc Fabregas, 4 – Desperately poor performance from the Spain international, who continues to lack the spark that made him one of Chelsea’s stand-out performers last season. Had a chance to score early on, but was too often bypassed in midfield by a confident Porto side that had done their homework.
Cesc Fabregas’ season-long slump continued in Portugal at Porto.
MF Willian, 7 – Chelsea’s man-of-the-moment left Porto keeper Iker Casillas rooted to the spot when firing home a sublime free kick in first half stoppage time. Energy and enthusiasm coupled with box-to-box interplay gave the Blues a decent cutting edge, but was let down by those around him who, apart from Costa, appeared to lack genuine motivation.
FW Diego Costa, 7 – Suspended from the English domestic game, Costa had a typically rumbustious game mixing it with the Porto defence and fashioning several goalscoring chances, the best of which came in the form of a blistering shot which rattled off the underside of the Porto bar. Found Casillas equal to his endeavours and cut a frustrated figure at the final whistle after being denied a clear-cut penalty in stoppage time.
MF Eden Hazard, 6 – Replaced Mikel in the 62nd minute. Got forward well and caused the Porto defence problems, but was unable to make a telling difference.
MF Kenedy, NR – Replaced Pedro in the 73rd minute and squandered an opportunity to equalise at the death.
MF Nemanja Matic, NR – Came on for Ramires in the 73rd minute, added steel to Chelsea’s back line — but by then it was too late
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