Chelsea earned a 2-0 victory over Porto at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to secure a trip to the knockout rounds of the 2015-16 Champions League as the winners of Group G.
The Blues received an own goal from the Dragons in the first half, and Willian netted his seventh of the campaign minutes after halftime to seal all three points. The loss means Porto is headed for the Europa League after being leapfrogged by Dynamo Kiev for second place in the group.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho reiterated ahead of the match that his side had no interest in the second-tier European competition. Even considering the routes to next season's Champions League, his focus remained on maximizing the potential of the current campaign, according to Liam Twomey of ESPN FC:
I know that in this moment, it looks that to win the Europa League would be an easier way to be in the Champions League next season than to finish in the top four. But there is another possibility, which is to win the Champions League. Yes, it is harder than winning the Europa League, but this is the competition we are in.
His players seemed to heed those words, as the Blues managed to grab the lead less than 15 minutes into the match, albeit thanks to a bit of good fortune.
Diego Costa broke free behind the Porto back line but couldn't finish as Dragons goalkeeper Iker Casillas rushed out to make a nice save. Alas, the amount of power on the Costa shot caused the ball to ricochet off Ivan Marcano and just over the line before it could be cleared.
OptaJoe provided an interesting note about the opening tally:
BBC Sport showcased the quick buildup that allowed the goal to happen:
The match took on a physical, chippy tone after Chelsea secured the lead. There were very few scoring chances for either side over the remaining 30 minutes of the first half, but a total of five yellow cards were handed out (three for Porto and two for Chelsea).
Chelsea HQ felt the Blues still put together a solid performance before the break:
They added a second goal shortly after halftime to create a little more breathing room.
A seemingly innocent play along the sideline quickly turned to gold for Chelsea. Costa created some space before finding Eden Hazard, who passed up a good shot to create a better one for Willian, and the Brazilian star made no mistake with a heavy strike into the bottom corner.
Simon Johnson of the Evening Standard credited the effort of Costa to jump-start the play:
The English side remained firmly in control from that point forward. Even when Porto were able to get some extended stretches of possession, they weren't able to create many scoring opportunities. A compact Blues defense forced them to take most of their shots from distance.
Chelsea celebrated the result:
Squawka Football spotlighted the UCL success of Mourinho:
Looking ahead, Chelsea must still find a way to right the ship in Premier League play. They face off with surprise leaders Leicester City on Monday in an away trip that could either spark a much-needed charge or bury the 14th-place Blues under deeper frustration.
Porto are currently in second place in the Primeira Liga, two points off the pace set by Sporting Lisbon. The Dragons return to action Sunday to face off with Nacional. Away fixtures against mid-table opponents often play a key role at season's end, so it's a match they can't afford to overlook.
Meanwhile, Chelsea will also await their assignment for the Champions League round of 16. The draw is set for next Monday.
Mourinho tried to explain the vast difference in results from the Premier League to the Champions League so far this season, as relayed by Ben Dinnery of ESPN FC:
Porto boss Julen Lopetegui lamented his side's missed opportunities before the own goal changed the complexion of the match, per Matt McGeehan of the Press Association:
Ultimately, Chelsea took better advantage of their opportunities and were rewarded with a favorable position in the draw to begin the knockout stages. The Blues still need to see a major uptick in overall form in order to climb the Premier League table and make a deep run in the Champions League, though.