Thomas Tuchel revealed Chelsea’s immediate reaction to defeat against West Brom left him in no doubt they would respond against Porto in the Champions League.
Chelsea travelled to Seville for Wednesday’s Champions League quarter-final first-leg smarting from Saturday’s heavy 5-2 defeat to the Baggies, which abruptly ended Tuchel’s club-record 14-game unbeaten start to life at Stamford Bridge.
But Chelsea produced an emphatic response as Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell scored their first Champions League goals to secure a 2-0 victory over the Portuguese champions which leaves Tuchel’s side on the brink of a first semi-final appearance in seven years.
For Tuchel, the result and manner of the performance was on the cards the moment his players had the chance to reflect on their shock defeat at the hands of the relegation-threatened Baggies.
“I was pretty sure [there would a response to West Brom],” Tuchel said after the win at Sevilla’s Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan Stadium, the stand-in venue for both legs of the quarter-final due to coronavirus travel restrictions.
“I saw the response immediately after the game in the dressing room and the next day, it was not a big concern.
“We had a big loss; it was our responsibility and we accepted it – me included. We were ready to respond, that is what we said, and this is it. There will always be setbacks in sport and the biggest challenge now was to bounce back.
“We have had a lot of wins together, a lot of excellent results. We had a loss and now we have a reaction after a loss together, and that brings us closer and increases the trust. It was important to have a clean sheet and a win straight after that defeat.”
Chelsea had to ride their luck at times against a Porto side riding high on confidence after knocking Serie A champions Juventus out in the previous round, with goalkeeper Edouard Mendy producing a string of fine saves to thwart Pepe and Moussa Marega.
But Mount’s masterful first-half strike – his first in Europe’s elite-club competition at the 15th attempt – and Chilwell industrious late second, saw the Blues secured a fully merited two-goal first-leg advantage.
“The result is excellent,” Tuchel added. “It was a tough match against a strong Porto side who are very hard to play against and have good individual skills.
“They are a proud club, a proud team, an emotional team, and there were many moments where we suffered. We accepted it; the circumstances are different in a quarter-final.
“Some moments were good, some moments we suffered, but the spirit was good, and the result was excellent. I am very happy to come away with this result, it’s fantastic but it is only half-time [in the tie] and we have to keep going.”
On Mount and Chilwell’s maiden Champions League strikes, the Chelsea boss added: “I’m very happy he [Mason] scored, it was a very important goal, an away goal which opened up the game and helped everybody’s nerves. It wasn’t an easy shot, but it was very precise.
“Chilwell’s goal was excellent, he’s not a regular scorer but he kept his composure, went around the goalkeeper and it was super important to get the second away goal.
“We lacked a bit of rhythm and precision while attacking but there was always a chance to maybe get a goal from a mistake from the opponent, and Chilwell forced one and kept his cool in the box.”
Analysis: Mount growing more important
Sky Sports’ Nick Wright:
Tuchel offered more praise for Mount after the game, lauding his attitude and mentality after the 22-year-old’s superb opener sent Chelsea on the way to victory.
Mount’s goal made him Chelsea’s youngest scorer in the Champions League knockout stages but age is proving no barrier to him. Since being left out of Tuchel’s first line-up as Chelsea head coach, he has become just as important as he was to his predecessor Frank Lampard.
In fact, he is growing in stature. His goal at the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan was his eighth of the campaign, meaning he has already matched his total for the whole of last season, and it was not all he offered.
Mount was typically industrious against Porto, bringing his usual industry off the ball, and his goal showed all the qualities he brings them in an attacking sense. First, there was the intelligent movement to position himself between two Porto defenders, then the skilful turn and clinical finish.
He only turned 22 in January but Mount is turning into the complete package and Tuchel knows it.