Cesar Azpilicueta says the Blues knew they would have to fight to finish the job against Porto, but was delighted with the spirit the team showed in securing our place in the Champions League semi-finals.
A resolute defensive performance in the second leg in Seville saw us hold on to our lead from the first game, progressing 2-1 on aggregate despite a late consolation goal by the Portuguese side deep into injury time giving them a 1-0 win on the night.
We had to stay strong at the back as our opponents continued to launch crosses into our box, but our place in the last four rarely looked in any doubt during a professional display from Chelsea where we did exactly what we needed to make it through.
‘We knew that Porto are a tough team,’ said our captain after the game. ‘They knocked out Juventus, they play with a lot of intensity, and we knew that we had to suffer, even though we had a very good result from the first leg.
‘Despite the score at the end I think we controlled the game and we were a bit unlucky in the last few metres where we could maybe create more chances.
‘Porto have very good attacking players, they are used to dominating games in their league, they create a lot of goals with different attacking options, they have people on the bench. So they are a very good team.
‘We know that Porto every time make the games very difficult for their opponents. They don’t let you play, they are very aggressive, so you have to fight.
‘The team showed that spirit and when you want to get through it doesn’t matter how. Of course, we are very honest and we know that we can play better, but sometimes it’s the game to dig in, to fight together, and the team showed that spirit in the two games.’
Azpilicueta was also keen to highlight the work our attacking players did on a tough night for them, as they helped keep the pressure off our defenders with the threat they posed on the break. That forced Porto into a succession of fouls to prevent us countering, with some opposition players seeming to get more touches on Christian Pulisic’s shins than the ball over the 90 minutes.
‘The team showed a great spirit, we fought really hard, the attacking players ran a lot. The team defended brilliantly, everybody. The attacking players, they did an amazing job, when we recovered the ball they kept the ball.
‘Porto made a lot of fouls so we couldn’t get them in the transition, because they stopped us a lot when we were accelerating to get into the counter-attack. So I think the team worked very well and I’m very happy with the fighting spirit from everybody.’
Chelsea now await the result of tonight’s quarter-final between Liverpool and Real Madrid at Anfield, with the Spanish side leading 3-1 from the first leg, to learn our next opponent in the Champions League. Azpilicueta is confident Chelsea have a chance of making the final whoever we face, but insists we need to keep our focus on our next fixture, another big game against Manchester City at Wembley.
‘We will see who we are going to play against. When you are into the best four teams in Europe everything’s going to be difficult and they are obviously two games where we are going to give everything because we know we have a chance.
‘Now we have to focus on the FA Cup semi-final we have on Saturday and we have to go step by step. The team is improving, we have a lot of quality, a lot of numbers in the squad, and everybody is fighting hard to get into the team.’