A happy Thomas Tuchel praised Chelsea’s reaction to adversity after they took a potentially decisive 2-0 win from the away leg of their Champions League quarter-final tie against Porto, saying their response to a shock weekend defeat by West Brom will unite his players.
Well-taken goals from Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell, the first either player had scored in this competition, secured an ultimately comfortable victory in Seville even if Tuchel accepted Chelsea rarely hit full flow. There had been pressure to bounce back after the 5-2 setback on Saturday, which was the German’s first defeat since taking over and came to look even more consequential when Antonio Rüdiger and Kepa Arrizabalaga clashed in training the following the following day.
“There will always be setbacks in football and it is the biggest challenge to bounce back,” Tuchel said. “We had a lot of wins together, a lot of excellent results; now we had a loss together and now we had a reaction after a loss that brings us closer together and increases the trust. It was important for the guys to have, straight after the [West Brom] match, a clean sheet and a win.”
Tuchel described the reaction as “absolutely necessary” and said Chelsea had appeared nervous before taking the lead through Mount’s excellent raking drive, which was their only attempt of an otherwise tricky opening period. “We suffered a bit because I felt we were a little bit tense and not precise enough, not free enough, during the first half,” he said. “Life was hard as Porto showed a lot of quality. We accept that we also need a bit of luck to escape with a clean sheet, but after losing such a strange game last Saturday we said today [among] the coaching staff that the best situation would be to produce a clean sheet straightaway.”
Rüdiger, who had been on the bench against West Brom alongside Arrizabalaga, returned to the starting lineup and put in a solid performance as Chelsea grew more comfortable after a spate of early scares. Tuchel reserved most of the individual praise for his goalscorers, though, and hailed the importance of Mount’s opener in setting a platform for next Tuesday’s second leg.
“It was a very important goal, an away goal calms everybody’s nerves a little bit,” he said. “It’s not an easy shot but Mason is very precise in finishing.” Chilwell’s coolly executed late second was, he added, “super-important”.