Dove Magazine

Maicon downs Chelsea as Mourinho’s return to Porto ends in defeat

José Mourinho scowled out from the fringes of his technical area, hands planted deep in his pockets as the locals who used to rejoice in his presence poured scorn on his side. Rarely can the Chelsea manager have felt so helpless. The Premier League champions were overwhelmed at times, their attempts at defence reduced to wreckage as Porto, rampant amid the din, sliced through them at will.

The London club may still recover from this defeat to emerge from the group but their campaign, two months in, seems gripped by panic. Theirs were all familiar frailties. The sight of Branislav Ivanovic flailing desperately to claw back a winger has become a sorry if regular feature of this team’s displays since the start of the season.

Likewise, quick-footed creative talents have exposed the spaces permitted by the absence of an effective defensive shield in the centre too often already this term, just as Yacine Brahimi did so thrillingly at the Dragão while Danilo, Giannelli Imbula and André André rampaged forward at the Algerian’s side.

Porto

PORTO, PORTUGAL – SEPTEMBER 29: Cesc Fabregas of Chelsea FC strikes the ball during the UEFA Champions League Group G match between FC Porto and Chelsea FC at Estadio do Dragao on September 29, 2015 in Porto, Portugal. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)

This was the seventh time in 10 competitive games that Chelsea have conceded at least twice, the defensive surety they once considered their forte fast becoming a thing of the past. What is even more disturbing than those clear deficiencies is the manager’s inability, as yet, to solve the issues undermining his side.

Chelsea have tried optimistically declaring “business as normal”, crossing their fingers in the hope that last year’s key performers recall the qualities that allowed them to secure the Premier League title and League Cup so impressively. When that did not work, Mourinho went the other way and was publicly critical of his players, most notably questioning their “attitude, desire and commitment” in the wake of Saturday’s slack draw at Newcastle.

Now he has even tried mixing and matching his selection, carrying through his threat to withdraw senior stalwarts by dropping Nemanja Matic and Eden Hazard to join John Terry kicking his heels on the bench. A trio of forward thinkers – Oscar, Loïc Rémy and Radamel Falcao – did not even travel to Portugal – and yet the mess remains.

The indecision that has dogged them all season manifested itself with skewed defensive headers or jittery clearances – and cost them both of Porto’s goals.

Ivanovic has become the fall guy only because he is being exposed more brutally than anyone else, but his form is in tatters. It was the Serb who allowed Brahimi to turn inside far too easily six minutes from the interval, Pedro tentative and reluctant to muster a challenge inside the area, with the forward spitting a shot round Kurt Zouma.

Asmir Begovic was perhaps unsighted but the save he managed with his right hand was weak, the ball merely looping to André, who crunched a volley through the goalkeeper’s attempt to recover before Gary Cahill could block.

Then there was the set piece that restored the home side’s lead soon after the interval, Ivanovic having been exposed by a lofted pass down the flank and Cesc Fàbregas bamboozled by Brahimi’s quick feet. Zouma conceded the corner but Rúben Neves’ ball to the near post should not have threatened.

Instead, Maicon burst away from Ramires and guided a neat header inside Begovic’s upright, with the goalkeeper slow to react. It was the kind of slackness that made Willian’s delicious equaliser, a free-kick curled beyond the static Iker Casillas from distance in first-half stoppage time, seem utterly irrelevant. Danilo, completely unmarked at Miguel Layún’s corner, should have added a third only to plant his header on to a post, with Begovic somehow summoning saves to deny Danilo and Imbula before the end.

Chelsea were a side laced with anxiety, all the authority that used to permeate their displays having drained away. Terry merely watched on from the sidelines at his manager’s back.

“More than anything I just think it lacked composure,” said Rio Ferdinand, the former England captain, in his capacity as a television pundit. “There was no real leadership out there. You look back on Mourinho sides, the Chelsea sides that were successful: you had the Drogbas, the Terrys, the Lampards, who the other players could look to. They’d turn around and say: ‘Listen, I’ve been here before, just follow me. You’ll be all right, we’ll get through this. Weather the storm.’ I didn’t see that tonight. I didn’t see players that would stand up and be counted in that way.”

Ivanovic has become the fall guy only because he is being exposed more brutally than anyone else, but his form is in tatters. It was the Serb who allowed Brahimi to turn inside far too easily six minutes from the interval, Pedro tentative and reluctant to muster a challenge inside the area, with the forward spitting a shot round Kurt Zouma.

Asmir Begovic was perhaps unsighted but the save he managed with his right hand was weak, the ball merely looping to André, who crunched a volley through the goalkeeper’s attempt to recover before Gary Cahill could block.

Then there was the set piece that restored the home side’s lead soon after the interval, Ivanovic having been exposed by a lofted pass down the flank and Cesc Fàbregas bamboozled by Brahimi’s quick feet. Zouma conceded the corner but Rúben Neves’ ball to the near post should not have threatened.

Instead, Maicon burst away from Ramires and guided a neat header inside Begovic’s upright, with the goalkeeper slow to react. It was the kind of slackness that made Willian’s delicious equaliser, a free-kick curled beyond the static Iker Casillas from distance in first-half stoppage time, seem utterly irrelevant. Danilo, completely unmarked at Miguel Layún’s corner, should have added a third only to plant his header on to a post, with Begovic somehow summoning saves to deny Danilo and Imbula before the end.

Chelsea were a side laced with anxiety, all the authority that used to permeate their displays having drained away. Terry merely watched on from the sidelines at his manager’s back.

“More than anything I just think it lacked composure,” said Rio Ferdinand, the former England captain, in his capacity as a television pundit. “There was no real leadership out there. You look back on Mourinho sides, the Chelsea sides that were successful: you had the Drogbas, the Terrys, the Lampards, who the other players could look to. They’d turn around and say: ‘Listen, I’ve been here before, just follow me. You’ll be all right, we’ll get through this. Weather the storm.’ I didn’t see that tonight. I didn’t see players that would stand up and be counted in that way.” –the guardian-

 

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