Chelsea and Jose Mourinho get it wrong as Porto deserve their 2-1 win
PORTO, Portugal -- Three thoughts on Porto's stunning 2-1 win over Chelsea in UEFA Champions League matchday two.
1. Jose Mourinho gets it wrong in dramatic fashion
Another bad result, another bad Jose Mourinho decision and a whole lot more questions for him to face. When you attempt a squad selection as bold as the Chelsea manager did for this game, and amid a run of performances as bad as this, you really need to get it right. Instead it was just another blunder as an excellent Porto easily won 2-1 in a game that really could have been so much worse for the English champions.
The circumstances will make it all the more painful for Mourinho and mean all the more big discussions at Chelsea. For one, there was the fact that he was coming home to the club where he claimed his greatest achievement -- winning the Champions League in 2004 -- only to be schooled by a team supposed to be a level below his current team. Secondly, there was the identity of the opposition goalkeeper: Iker Casillas claimed some revenge for being controversially dropped by Mourinho amid a long and drawn-out clash of egos when the duo were at Real Madrid between 2010 and 2013.
Mourinho was dropping equally big names on Tuesday night; Eden Hazard, Nemanja Matic and John Terry were left out of the starting XI while Loic Remy, Radamel Falcao and Oscar were left back in London. Put another way, that meant Chelsea had dropped their star, their captain and had no replacement strikers on the bench for a notoriously volatile first-choice forward.
It was remarkable, and it only played into a remarkable Porto performance. Julen Lopetegui's side had the confidence to cut through Chelsea straight away, claiming the opening goal almost through sheer force. The unique Yacine Brahimi tore the hapless Branislav Ivanovic apart, and his parried shot eventually saw Andre Andre power the ball through Asmir Begovic's hands.
Chelsea did strike back on the stroke of half-time through a supreme Willian free kick that left Casillas rooted to his line, but it is becoming a big problem that Mourinho's side are only scoring goals now through long shots, set pieces and freak efforts -- and that Diego Costa is so starved of service.
Other than one Pedro one-on-one, a Costa long shot off the bar and a frantic late chance, Chelsea barely created anything. That was in stark contrast to Porto who were repeatedly reducing Chelsea's defence to a rabble. It was only a matter of time until they caved, with Maicon flicking past Ramires from a corner to make it 2-1.
In and of itself, a defeat to Porto in a forgiving group is no disaster. In a period like this and with a performance as bad as that, it only emphasises the disastrous state of Chelsea's side at the minute.
Mourinho, again, got it wrong.
2. Branislav Ivanovic's form is only getting worse
Chelsea dropping points and playing badly has long ceased being remarkable in a start to the season as bad as this, but it remains utterly incredible that with so many players dropped as a consequence, Ivanovic is the one who has kept his place in the team.
Ivanovic has arguably been Chelsea's worst performer but he doesn't just start these days; he's been made stand-in captain in Terry's absence and has actually played more minutes than any other defender. It's difficult not to think he's been responsible for more errors (and therefore more opposition goals) than any other defender, too. He was partly culpable for both on Tuesday night..
For Porto's first, the brilliant Brahimi followed the example of Jefferson Montero and Yannick Bolasie this season in having the easy confidence to run at Ivanovic and tear him apart. It was Brahimi's shot that eventually allowed Andre to plunder a strike. For the second, Ivanovic haplessly slipped as a ball dropped over him, letting Porto in to win the corner from which they won the game.
By that point, bad defending had transformed into farce and a previously assured defender has transformed into someone who inspires absolutely no confidence. All of that assurance and authority is gone, which makes it all the more amazing he is not gone from the team.
Sure, the Serbian is not the only problem Chelsea have right now, but he is the biggest problem in a back line that needs some resilience restored. That's not going to happen with this version of Ivanovic in the side.
3. Iker Casillas wins his personal battle with Mourinho
So much of the pregame focus regarding Porto was on Casillas, but during the game, Chelsea should have paid much more attention to Brahimi. Granted, they might well have been trying to do that but just couldn't get near him. The Algerian playmaker was exceptional, running the game but also giving Porto the technical edge that makes them such a finely balanced team.
Casillas was actually coming into a defence that had only conceded one goal at home since Dec. 14, 2014, and that was to Bayern Munich. Chelsea struggled to get past their well-marshalled back line and on the one occasion they did, the Spanish goalkeeper reminded everyone of the player he was before he got into such a war with Mourinho when the Portuguese was manager of Real Madrid.
That battle had begun in 2011, not long after Casillas had enjoyed a career peak of stopping two Arjen Robben one-on-ones in Spain's victorious 2010 World Cup final. The goalkeeper reminded everyone of that here. After 13 minutes, Pedro was also put through one-on-one but Casillas outstretched a leg to divert his effort wide. It was a supreme save and the foundation of a supremely complete Porto performance.
There was one spell when, with a supposedly superior Chelsea team actually needing to chase the game, the imposing Portuguese side subjected them to a series of pot shots. Brahimi was so often at the centre of that.
Casillas got an element of revenge on Mourinho as a consequence but by the end, that scarcely seemed to matter. After all, Porto were too good and Chelsea's own issues were too great.
Miguel Delaney covers the Premier League and Champions League for ESPN FC. Twitter: @MiguelDelaney.