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Chelsea 1-0 Porto


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fcporto.jpgTuesday 15 September 2009, UEFA Champions League, Group Stage, Stamford Bridge, London.

Nicolas Anelka's second-half strike was enough for Chelsea to defeat F.C. Porto in the Blues' opening game in the Champions League.

After a closely-contested first half which saw both teams go close to opening the scoring, the tenacity of Salomon Kalou saw the Ivorian play Nicolas Anelka in behind the Porto defence. Though the Frenchman's first effort was well-stopped by Brazilian goalkeeper Helton, the Chelsea striker fired home at the second attempt despite the best efforts of the Porto rearguard. Only a splendid reaction save from Helton denied Chelsea a somewhat elusive second goal as he brilliantly denied Kalou the goal his endeavour warranted, whilst the Porto goalkeeper also excelled to save a similar headed effort from Frank Lampard.

The Portuguese side rallied late on, but a typically-imperious display from talismanic skipper John Terry - paired with a number of good saves by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech - meant that the hosts would hold on for three very valuable points in their opening Champions League fixture. It may not have been the most impressive display from Carlo Ancelotti's side, but in slippery conditions on a slick Stamford Bridge surface, Chelsea did enough to ensure it would be a winning return to European competition for the Blues after the disappointments of last season's campaign.

And though the Stamford Bridge faithful were keen to forget the events of that fateful clash with Barcelona back in May, fallout from the match was evident as both Didier Drogba and José Bosingwa were suspended as a result of their comments regarding referee Tom Ovrebo after the Catalan side had progressed to the final of the competition - only after surviving several very strong penalty claims. With the Ivorian and Bosingwa - the latter a former Porto player - both missing, Branislav Ivanovic was moved to the right of defence and Ricardo Carvalho was recalled to the side, whilst Nicolas Anelka replaced Drogba. Paulo Ferreira and Deco both missed the opportunity to play against their former employers due to injury, though another former player at the Dragao, Hilario, was on the bench. Carvalho received a warm round of applause from the travelling supporters, who were in good voice throughout.

The match itself was an incredibly lively affair, with a total of almost fifty shots come the final whistle. Though the conditions made it difficult for both sides to play their favoured quick passing game, the teams were committed to attack, and both teams had presentable chances to break the deadlock during the first-half.

The opening exchanges were played at break-neck speed, with good opportunities arising for both sides. A mistake from Porto's Pereira saw Anelka break forward, but his cross failed to find a colleague inside a packed penalty area, before Frank Lampard forced a sprawling save out of Helton, who did well to parry the ball away as it skipped off the saturated surface. Porto's Hulk then forced a decent save out of Cech, who took no chances as he blocked the shot with his legs. The resulting corner saw Gonzales head over, whilst at the other end, another fine stop by Helton denied Lampard his first goal since the Blues' 3-1 triumph at the Stadium of Light over Sunderland after the England midfielder had glanced Ivanovic's cross on-target.

Nicolas Anelka had a shot blocked inside the area as Porto frustrated the West London outfit, before John Terry received lengthy treatment after a collision with the Portuguese side's captain Eduardo Bruno Alves. The two skippers had challenged for the ball and a stray elbow by the alleged Chelsea target saw Terry momentarily knocked unconscious. In typical John Terry fashion, however, the England and Chelsea defender soldiered on and completed the full ninety minutes.

Florent Malouda and Michael Essien were both harshly booked by Austrian referee Konrad Klautz. Chelsea were dominating the first half-an-hour, however, and only another save by Helton denied them a deserved lead as he saved Lampard's effort. The England star then headed wide as Chelsea pushed forward as they looked to apply pressure to the Porto backline, before both Michael Ballack and the industrious Kalou were both toe-ends away from converting a devilish cross from Ivanovic.

But with the pitch becoming increasingly sodden, mistakes were becoming more and more common and misplaced passes amongst Chelsea players allowed Porto to break. A well-worked counter-attack was headed over by Guarin whilst Cech had to deny a close-range effort from Raul Meireles as the Portuguese side ended the half in the ascendancy. In reply, Chelsea fired a warning in the form of a Florent Malouda effort, which was a yard or two over Helton's crossbar. An enjoyable first half had been somewhat frustrating for Chelsea, but the home fans would not have to wait long to celebrate an opening goal.

With 47 minutes on the clock, Anelka finally converted a glorious chance after Kalou had won the ball on the edge of the area and then poked it through to the French striker. Helton superbly saved Anelka's initial effort but he could only look on as the Chelsea man beat Fernando to the ball and dinked it over the outstretched arm of the Porto goalkeeper.

Chelsea were slowly improving and confidence began to show as Essien and Lampard became more involved; the latter spreading the ball about the field with deadly accuracy. Though the rain had eased off the pitch was still harbouring much surface water, and loose touches amongst the hosts continued to frustrate the Chelsea fans. Nevertheless it was the Blues who were looking the more likely to score, and Malouda had his head in his hands after he found the side-netting with a headed effort from a tight angle.

Then Helton pulled off a fantastic save to stop Kalou from doubling Chelsea's lead, as he instinctively blocked the Ivorian's header with a strong fist. Not to be outdone, at the other end of the pitch Cech was becoming gradually busier, and his handling had to be assured as he denied Guarin twice, only after smothering a weak prod from Falcao, who had come off the bench for the visiting side.

Kalou then went off as Juliano Belletti entered the fray, but Porto continued to dominate despite the Brazilian's introduction. Varela forced a fine save out of Cech moments later - the Porto man watching as Cech snaked out a hand to palm away the well-struck effort. It was the closest the Portuguese Liga champions would come, though Hulk did find the side-netting from an acute angle moments later.

Chelsea survived a late rally from the Portuguese side but Porto's hopes were dashed when Fernando was sent off for a second yellow card after a late lunge saw Ashley Cole fall foul to a late tackle exacerbated by wet conditions. A relieved Stamford Bridge celebrated as the final whistle was sounded. A difficult game had been won thanks to Anelka's third goal of the season and thirtieth strike in Chelsea colours, and a draw between APOEL Nicosia and Atletico de Madrid ensured the Blues topped Group D; two points clear of the Cypriot and Spanish sides.


Chelsea (4-3-2-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry ©, A Cole; Ballack, Essien, Malouda; Kalou (Belletti 76), Lampard; Anelka

Porto (4-3-3): Helton; Fucile, Rolando, Bruno Alves ©, Pereira; Gaurin, Fernando, Raul Meireles; Mariano Gonzalez (Falcao 53), Hulk, Rodriguez (Varela 64)

The TalkChelsea.net Blues' Man of the Match was Chelsea's number 1 - Petr Cech


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