Sunday, May 9, 2021

Chelsea into Champions League semis for the first time since 2014

Chelsea 1
Chelsea's Christian Pulisic in action with FC Porto's Pepe. PHOTO: REUTERS

SEVILLE (Spain), April 14: Chelsea reached the Champions League semi-finals for the first time since 2014 despite a 1-0 defeat against Porto in Tuesday’s quarter-final second leg in Seville.

Thomas Tuchel’s side will play Real Madrid or Liverpool for a place in the final after producing a masterclass in game management to win 2-1 on aggregate.
Real travel to Anfield on Wednesday looking to protect a 3-1 lead from the first leg.
They could do worse than copy Tuchel’s tactics as Chelsea smothered Porto with an intelligent defensive approach until Mehdi Taremi’s stunning bicycle kick in the last minute of stoppage-time.
That sublime strike was out of character with the rest of Porto’s display as they laboured to overturn the 2-0 first-leg deficit.
Chelsea have lost only once in 18 matches since Tuchel replaced the sacked Frank Lampard in January and this was another feather in the German’s cap.
Tuchel had admitted this week was a make or break period for Chelsea.
They passed the first test with ease and can now focus on Saturday’s FA Cup semi-final against Premier League leaders Manchester City at Wembley.
The Blues are fifth in the Premier League as they chase a top-four finish, meaning they might need to win the Champions League for the first time since 2012 if they are to qualify for next season’s competition.
Led by the astute Tuchel, who took Paris Saint-Germain to the Champions League final last season, that lofty ambition can’t be ruled out.
Tuchel this week said he wouldn’t want to fight Antonio Rudiger or Cesar Azpilicueta, such is the ferocious will to win coursing through Chelsea’s most vocal players.
Both defenders lived up to Tuchel’s billing as they fought tooth and nail to keep Porto at bay in a niggly clash.
Mason Mount had scored Chelsea’s opening goal in the first leg and he was inches away from netting again when his long-range drive was deflected over.
Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy gifted Porto a golden opportunity for a priceless early goal when his miscued pass went straight to Jesus Corona inside the penalty area.
But Corona couldn’t keep his composure and Jorginho did enough to ensure the shot flashed wide.
Mendy’s blunder was forced in part by the relentless pressing that epitomised Porto’s frenetic start, but Chelsea matched their work rate as the foul count rose for both teams.
N’Golo Kante was fit to start for Chelsea after a hamstring problem and the France midfielder teed up a good chance for Kai Havertz, whose limp finish failed to match the quality of his team-mate’s incisive raid.
Having already wasted one good chance, Corona’s profligacy let Porto down again when he lashed hurriedly over from 12 yards after Ben Chilwell misjudged Otavio’s high ball.
Chelsea had never lost a knockout tie in Europe after winning the first leg away from home and that record remained pristine as Porto ran out of steam in the second half.
Chilwell’s cross presented Christian Pulisic with a clear sight of goal, but the winger couldn’t get enough power on his wayward volley.
Desperately short of a cutting edge, it took Porto until the 68th minute for their first effort on target as Taremi’s header from Corona’s cross forced Mendy to save.
Taremi’s eye-catching strike with seconds left came far too late for a dramatic finale, with tempers flaring in a heated exchange involving Rudiger and several Porto players after the final whistle.
PSG knock Bayern out on away goals to reach Champions League last four

Bayern Munich’s Leroy Sane in action with Paris St Germain’s Neymar during the Champions League Quarter Final Second Leg match between Paris St Germain and Bayern Munich at Parc des Princes, Paris, France, April 13, 2021. Paris St Germain reached the Champions League semi-finals despite a 1-0 home defeat by Bayern Munich as the title holders bowed out on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate result on Tuesday. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

Paris St Germain reached the Champions League semi-finals despite a 1-0 home defeat by Bayern Munich on Tuesday as the title holders bowed out on away goals after a 3-3 aggregate result.
Eric Choupo-Moting scored the only goal of a mesmeric encounter before the interval but it was not enough to overturn the German side’s 3-2 loss in last week’s first leg.
PSG, who had struggled at times in Munich, had the clearest chances but lacked efficiency, with Neymar hitting the woodwork twice and Kylian Mbappe’s speed again proving tough to handle.
Mauricio Pochettino’s PSG side, however, kept their composure in a nerve-wrecking finale to book their spot in the last four against Manchester City or Borussia Dortmund as they look to reach the final for the second year in a row.
Their home form has been cause for concern this season, but this time PSG did not freeze as they proved extremely dangerous on the break throughout the match.
In the absence of injured captain Marquinhos, Danilo started alongside Presnel Kimpembe in central defence for the French champions while Bayern were without Leon Goretzka in the midfield.
Bayern applied the pressure early on but PSG threatened on the counter with Mbappe and Neymar having the early chances in an error-strewn start.
The visitors had their first attempt in the 25th minute when Leroy Sane’s curled short from outside the box went just wide.
PSG came close on a quick break as Bayern goalkeeper Manuel Neuer denied Neymar in a one-on-one after the Brazilian had been found unmarked by Mbappe.
Neymar was at it again three times in a handful of minutes with a powerful shot that Neuer deflected onto his post, a superb curled effort that crashed against the bar and another attempt that hit the post after he was played through by Mbappe.
However, Bayern then went in front as Choupo-Moting headed home after PSG keeper Keylor Navas deflected David Alaba’s shot into the path of the former PSG player, giving the German champions the lead on the night five minutes before the break.
PSG were close again early in the second half when Angel Di Maria controlled Mbappe’s cross splendidly and passed the ball past a flying Neuer across the face of goal, only for Neymar’s stretching effort to slide it home being a few inches too short.
Mbappe thought he had equalised in the 78th minute after being played through by Neymar from just inside Bayern’s half, but a VAR review confirmed Italian referee Daniele Orsato’s decision to rule it out.

Hansi Flick’s team created danger in the box repeatedly in the closing stages but the home side’s defence held firm as they avenged last year’s 1-0 final defeat by Bayern. (AFP/Reuters)