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'We're going to try to win this thing': USA star Christian Pulisic says Chelsea want Champions League title following Porto scare

Chelsea lost for the second time under Thomas Tuchel in a forgettable Champions League quarter-final second leg, going through with an aggregate win that has allowed midfield prodigy Christian Pulisic to speak of their confidence.

Tuchel’s side kept dangerous Porto largely at bay for much of the return leg in Seville, sensibly protecting their 2-0 lead from the first fixture in another demonstration of Tuchel’s pragmatic, cautious tactics.

USA sensation Pulisic could have scored twice, including being put clean through on goal in the second half, only for Iran international Mehdi Taremi to halve the deficit and give Chelsea the briefest of scares with a spectacular overhead kick in added time at the end of the match.

Porto failed in their desperate searched for a second, chasing an even later repeat of the drama that saw them knock out Cristiano Ronaldo and Juventus in the previous round.

Chelsea’s stars did not sound unduly worried by the frenetic ending to the game. “We knew they were going to put a lot of pressure on us,” reasoned Pulisic, eyeing a final four showdown with either Real Madrid or Liverpool, who start the second leg of their quarter-final tomorrow night with Madrid 3-1 ahead.

“They were down two goals from the first leg so we knew they were going to come out flying and we couldn’t panic at any point. I don’t think we did.

“We were very steady at the back, we didn’t give them any massive chances. They scored an incredible goal but, all in all, we were happy with the shift we put in.”

“There’s a lot of confidence – we have a great team, a very confident bunch of guys.

“We’re very excited, whoever our next opponents are going to be. We’re going to go in and try to win this thing.”

A first appearance in the semi-finals since 2014 looked unlikely until Tuchel turned Chelsea into a more formidable-looking proposition.

“He’s had a big impact,” England midfielder Mason Mount told BT Sport about the German boss.

“It’s difficult to come in midway through the season but we knew from day one what he wanted, we’ve all implemented it in the game. We work hard in training, we’ve been performing at a high level so we need to continue that.

“We could have played better but our performance was at the back of our minds and getting through to the semi-finals was at the forefront of our minds.

“We’re buzzing. We’re in a good position, we know we’re playing well. The focus in every game is 100 per cent.

“We’re going into each game with confidence that we’re going to win. We’ve got a big end to the season.”

Chelsea are a point behind fourth-placed West Ham and two behind Leicester ahead of them in the Premier League.
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This article originally appeared on RT Sport News

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Mount makes history as dark horses Chelsea seize Champions League initiative vs Porto

Chelsea fans drew comparisons between midfield maestro Mason Mount and all-time top scorer Frank Lampard as the 22-year-old’s smartly-taken goal helped give the Blues the initiative in their Champions League tie with Porto.

England midfielder Mount struck with Chelsea’s first effort on goal at the Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan in Seville, rolling Zaidu Sanusi expertly before driving into the bottom corner just after the half-hour mark. 

Full-back Ben Chilwell then pounced on a defensive error to double the lead with five minutes to play, as Chelsea secured a 2-0 win and took a giant stride towards the Champions League semi-finals.

Travel restrictions between Portugal and the UK mean both legs of the quarter-final against Porto are being played in southern Spain, with Chelsea classed as the visitors on Wednesday night.

In a game which was tight for long periods, it was Mount who broke the deadlock, adding to the burgeoning reputation forged primarily under former manager Lampard and which is continuing to flourish under new boss Thomas Tuchel.

Mount’s smart strike was his eighth of the season across all club competitions, but a first ever in the Champions League as he became the Blues’ youngest ever scorer in the knockout stages of the tournament.

After being tutored for so long by Lampard, many Chelsea fans hailed Mount as the heir apparent to the mantle held by Lampard as a marauding midfield goalscorer during his own playing days.

Wednesday’s result for Chelsea also means they continue to establish themselves as dark horses for the Champions League this season under Tuchel, after easing past La Liga leaders Atletico Madrid in the last round and now placing one foot in the last four of the competition. 

Following the domestic embarrassment to West Brom at the weekend, Tuchel opted to leave the experience of Thiago Silva on the bench, going for a backline of Andreas Christensen alongside Antonio Rudiger and César Azpilicueta.

Up front, Kai Havertz led the line through the middle while Tuchel kept the faith with Timo Werner despite his recent woes in front of goal, and Mount was trusted to provide thrust from midfield.

Porto proved they were no pushovers by dumping out Cristiano Ronaldo’s Juventus in the last round, and it was the Portuguese champions who started the livelier, pegging Chelsea back and keeping Edouard Mendy on his toes without testing the Frenchman fully.

But as Porto pressed, it was Chelsea who struck with their first effort on goal in the 32nd minute.

Italian metronome Jorginho slipped a wonderful pass into Mount, who escaped the attentions of Sanusi expertly before finding the bottom corner.

Firmly established as a crucial cog in the Chelsea machine, it was proof of just how vital Mount will be for their ambitions moving forward both domestically and in Europe’s biggest club competition.

Werner had a chance to double Chelsea’s lead at the start of the second half, only to head over from a whipped cross from Mount – very much in keeping with the German’s recent goal-shy form.

Mendy was then called on to save from Porto’s Moussa Marega when the French keeper looked in danger of being caught in no-man’s land.  

Ever a menace, Pepe poked the ball into the Chelsea net following a scramble from a corner, but the whistle had gone for offside in the build-up. The London club then continued to live dangerously as Luis Diaz flashed wide of Mendy’s goal with a fierce effort.

At the other end, Havertz poked the ball wide with the goal at his mercy after Porto goalkeeper Agustín Marchesin had spilled a long-range effort from Rudiger and Werner squared the ball to his compatriot, although the offside flag was already up.

Azpilicueta also headed wide as Chelsea looked to capitalize on their strongest spell of the game.

Tuchel introduced Christian Pulisic and Olivier Giroud for ineffective German duo Werner and Havertz with 25 minutes to play, as the big-money summer signings again fell somewhat flat on the big occasion.

Pulisic had a golden chance to double Chelsea’s advantage and rattled the crossbar with a rocket of an effort, before left-back Chilwell finally increased the deficit, pouncing on a defensive error to round Marchesin and slot into an empty net.

The result puts Chelsea firmly ahead in the tie before they return to the same venue for the second leg on Tuesday, on that occasion technically as the home team.

The Londoners already know that beyond that lies a meeting with the winners of the last-eight tie between Real Madrid and Liverpool, with the Spaniards in control after their 3-1 home leg win on Tuesday night. 

With the likes of reigning champions Bayern Munich, last season’s finalists Paris Saint-Germain and runaway Premier League leaders Manchester City all in the other half of the draw, Tuchel will eye a golden opportunity to guide his team into the final, repeating the feat he achieved with PSG last season. 


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Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel hails two players after Porto Champions League win

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel was full of praise for his two goalscorers as the Blues sealed a 2-0 win over Porto in the first leg of their Champions League quarter-final on Wednesday. Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell scored a goal in each half to give their side two vital away goals.
Chelsea will now be strong favourites to play either Paris Saint-Germain or Bayern Munich at the semi-final stage.

Tuchel’s side bounced back from Saturday’s 5-2 drubbing by West Brom in the Premier League.

And the German was delighted with the response his players showed.

“The result is excellent. It was a tough match against a strong Porto side,” Tuchel told BT Sport.

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“We had a big loss but it was our responsibility but we accepted it. We were ready to respond. There will always be setbacks in football, the challenge is to bounce back.”

Mount scored his first Champions League goal, turning exquisitely on the edge of the 18-yard box before firing in a fine finish.

Chilwell sealed a great night in Seville for Chelsea and Tuchel singled both players out after the match.

“I am very, very happy [Mount] scored,” he added.

“It was an important goal and opened up the game for us and calmed nerves.

“It wasn’t an easy shot but very precise. I am very happy for Mason, he takes responsibility.

“Mason is precise with his finishing and always ready to help us.

“[Ben Chilwell] excellent because he kept his composure to go past the goalkeeper.

“It was super important to get the second away goal. Like I said, we lacked a bit of rhythm in our attack but there was always a chance to get a goal from a mistake from our opponent.

“He isn’t a regular scorer but I am very happy we go away with the result.

“It’s half time, though. We need to keep going.”

Mount insists only half the job has been done ahead of the second leg next week.

“We knew it would be a tough game,” the 22-year-old said.

“We kept going, we got the goal in the first half and the second secured a good win.

“It’s only half the tie, there’s a second leg to go.”

Juventus chief issues statement on Cristiano Ronaldo future after embarrassing Porto exit

Cristiano Ronaldo’s future at Juventus is “not an immediate issue” despite the club’s latest failings in the Champions League at the hands of Porto. The Old Lady were dumped out of the competition before the semi-finals for the third successive season since Ronaldo arrived, ultimately rendering the blockbuster £85million transfer a failure given that he was brought in to help Juve win the competition.
Juventus have seemingly regressed in the past few years, having lost to Ajax in the quarter-finals in 2018/19 before tasting defeat against Lyon in the last 16 less than a year ago.

Yet this was arguably their worst elimination of the lot, as 10-man Porto soldiered on to record a memorable upset at the Allianz Stadium.

Porto had led 2-1 from the first-leg at the Estadio do Dragao and scored a vital first-half away goal through the brilliant Sergio Oliveira.

But Juve fought back through Federico Chiesa – who had also spared Juve blushes in Portugal – as the Italian struck twice to send the game to extra-time.

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Speaking after the game, Juventus director Fabio Paratici told Sky Italia that Ronaldo’s future is not the priority at the club right now.

He said: “There’s still another year of contract [expiring in June 2022]. Cristiano’s contract renewal is not an immediate issue on the agenda, there’s time to talk about it”.

Andrea Pirlo’s future at the club was also plunged into doubt with the defeat.

His predecessor Maurizio Sarri was sacked after Juventus’ last 16 defeat to Lyon, despite winning Serie A last season.

The former midfielder is confident he will still be the man in charge come next season, due to the club’s commitment to a long-term vision.

“I’ve been called here at Juventus because it’s the beginning of a new project, looking at the future and for several years. I continue calmly with my work,” he said.

Juventus are currently 10 points behind Serie A leaders Inter Milan but do have a game in hand over the Nerazzurri.

The teams are set to meet in Turin on May 16 but time is running out for Juventus to make up ground on Antonio Conte’s side, who are now running away with the Scudetto after overtaking rivals AC Milan at the summit.

Ronaldo KO: Woe for Cristiano as Juventus crash out of the Champions League after agonizing extra-time away-goals defeat to Porto

Juventus have been ousted from the Champions League at the first knockout stage for the second straight season – suffering even more despair than they did last year by losing on aggregate to 10-man Porto via a 115th-minute goal.

In one of the most dramatic, unpredictable games of the season so far, Juventus repeated the rigmarole of their second leg of the round of 16 against Lyon last season, when they started as favorites despite being a goal down, only to swiftly concede a penalty.

This time, the inspirational Sérgio Oliveira, who was Player of the Match in both legs, sent goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny the wrong way from the spot after 19 minutes in Turin to put Porto within sight of the quarterfinals.

With Porto 2-1 up from the first leg, the first goal was always likely to be crucial in the return. Having only conceded to Manchester City and Juve in the tournament so far this season, Porto looked comfortable and occasionally threatening for the rest of the first half.

All that would change in fewer than 20 second-half minutes. Federico Chiesa curled a stylish finish into the far corner of the net following a delicate Ronaldo set-up inside the penalty area four minutes after the break, and Mehdi Taremi was then bizarrely sent off for a second yellow card for kicking the ball away before Chiesa struck again.

Colombia winger Juan Cuadrado seemed to spend the entire night providing his teammates with a succession of crosses that were easier to score from than miss, so there could have been no complaints had his vicious diagonal strike from inside the penalty area gone in rather than smashed against the crossbar.

Chiesa beat keeper Agustin Marchesin with his pace but was somehow denied by heroic Pepe with the goal gaping, summing up a night when the Porto captain rose from a spell of medical treatment on more than one occasion to produce the most tackles and headed clearances of anyone on the pitch, putting himself in the way of almost every dangerous opportunity Juve would create.

Ronaldo gave a hallmark look of despair after heading a Cuadrado cross wide from close range, and the momentum clearly appeared to be in his side’s favor the longer the match went on against worn and depleted opponents.

Juventus are still yet to convincingly prove their collective spirit. Porto have an abundance of that, seeing them through to the 115th minute, when Oliveira tried his luck from distance, having survived Alvaro Morata suffering a goal ruled out for offside and Ronaldo being denied at close range by Marchesin.

It is hard to imagine Pepe and Porto’s defensive wall turning their backs and jumping as aimlessly as Ronaldo and the rest of the Juventus line, supposedly set up to defend the free kick from a considerable distance, did when Oliveira thumped a low shot towards the near post, creeping beyond Szczesny.

With two away goals against them, Juventus now needed to score as many goals in five minutes or so as they had in a little under two hours. To their credit, they managed half the bargain as Adrien Rabiot powered in a header almost immediately.

There was even time for three or four half-chances around the Porto penalty area after that, Ronaldo seeing sight of goal and Pepe providing an acrobatic clearance at one point, despite having gone to ground clutching his hamstring not long beforehand.

Porto’s aggregate win was deserved. Juventus only really showed the necessary urgency in the final 75 minutes of a 180-minute tie and, as was the case last season, that apparent lack of consistency and focus cost them dearly, albeit via some misfortune and an exit by the narrowest of margins.

A two-time Champions League winner as a player with Milan, Pirlo’s future at Juventus is now surely in doubt. The rookie manager was hired last year after Maurizio Sarri’s failure to guide the club beyond the Champions League round of 16, and Pirlo faces a tough task to at least continue Juve’s long run of domestic league titles, as Sarri did reasonably comfortably.

Pirlo argued that he has a long-term project and has faith in his players, who have taken the club to third in Serie A, ten points behind leaders Inter ahead of the closing stages of the season.

At 36 and with his contract expiring in 2022, Ronaldo must be questioning whether he wants to remain part of a squad led by an unproven manager whose achievements to date would be considered a failure had they been provided by an established coach without Pirlo’s status in the game.

Remaining at Juve amid the uncertainty of another managerial change would also be a risky way to target major late-career silverware. Ronaldo is running out of chances to win the Champions League almost as quickly as Juventus seemed to run out of ideas against a functional, determined, deeply spirited but ultimately unspectacular Porto side who look like gatekeepers to winning this season’s competition.
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