Why Thomas Tuchel clashed with Pepe as Christian Pulisic matches Lionel Messi feat against Porto
Chelsea prove their European pedigree
It wasn’t until 1999 that Chelsea got to prove themselves against the very best clubs in Europe. But they’ve certainly made up for lost time since.
In their first-ever Champions League campaign 22 years ago, the Blues reached the quarter-finals under Gianluca Vialli. But during the Roman Abramovich era, the club has regularly progressed further.
That is the case once again this season following last night’s clash with Porto. Chelsea were beaten 1-0 on the night but having secured a two-goal victory in the first leg, booked their place in the last four.
In the process, Thomas Tuchel and his players made history. It is the eighth occasion the Blues have reached the Champions League semi-finals since the competition’s inception in 1992, no English side can better that record.
Who Chelsea take on in the next round of the competition will be decided this evening. Real Madrid travel to Anfield to face Liverpool with a 3-1 lead from the first leg. Zinedine Zidane’s side are in a strong position to progress and Tuchel has explained why he would rather go up against the La Liga giants.
“In general, I like not to play against teams from your same league in the Champions League as it gives more of a feeling of European competition,” he told BT Sport.
“But that is the only thing. The game is far from over but I will watch it for sure. Everything is possible. Liverpool are very strong at home so we take what we get. It is a good situation for us.”
Christian Pulisic matches Lionel Messi feat
Last night’s game wasn’t overly enjoyable for the American star. For 90 minutes he was kicked and knocked down to the ground by Porto’s players. Yet he continued to get up for more.
Pulisic did have a couple of sights of goal during the game but his primary job was to help relieve pressure on the Chelsea defence and midfield when he had the ball.
That’s why on several occasions, the first thought in the 22-year-old’s mind when he received possession was to drive forward and take the punishment that came with doing so.
In total, per WhoScored, Pulisic was fouled 11 times during the game. For context, the next most-fouled Chelsea star was Jorginho, who was only brought down on three occasions.
That ability to draw fouls is rare. So rare, in fact, that the last time a player was fouled 11 times during a Champions League match occurred a decade ago.
The player? Lionel Messi. The little Argentine ‘achieving’ the feat during a heated semi-final clash against bitter rivals Real Madrid.
Why Pepe and Thomas Tuchel clashed at full time
For around 60 seconds, there was genuine concern among Chelsea supporters.
Mehdi Taremi had struck a wonderful overhead kick in stoppage time to give Porto the smallest glimmer of hope of forcing extra time, and the Portuguese side mounted one last attack to force an equaliser. Fortunately, nothing came from it.
Moments later, the full-time whistle was blown and a rather frank fist bump and exchange took place between the coaches, Tuchel and Sergio Conceicao. Moments later, things suddenly got heated between the players and coaches on the pitch.
Inevitably, Pepe was involved. The veteran defender, flanked by Conceicao, got in the face of Tuchel before angrily waving his finger at the Chelsea head coach.
The 38-year-old then became embroiled in an argument with Antonio Rudiger before a combination of Edouard Mendy Olivier Giroud and Thiago Silva deescalated the situation.
Quite what had caused Pepe to confront Tuchel wasn’t clear. Until Conceicao spoke to the press after the game that is.
The Porto manager accused Tuchel of “insulting” him at full time during a post-match interview with the Portuguese television station TVI.
In his post-match press conference, Conceicao added: “There was no exchange of words [during the match] because I was focused on the game, I don’t know why he reacted,” he said. “But I didn’t understand it very well. I heard some insults, but it’s gone. It’s not pretty and my irritation at the end had to do with it. I didn’t even speak to him.”
Tuchel, however, was quick to play down the incident when he spoke to the media after the game.
“It was just a little argument with me and the coach but everybody was following me suddenly,” he said. “I thought it was between me and the coach, but obviously it was not. But no harm done there.”
While Conceicao’s claim shouldn’t be disregarded, it is worth noting that earlier in the campaign, after Porto were beaten in the group stage by Manchester City, he accused Pep Guardiola of using “ugly words” and trying to influence referees.
“I’ve got a lot to learn from Pep Guardiola, in the way he pressures referees, talks to opposition players and the opposition dugout,” the Porto coach said.
“He spoke about our country using ugly words. Guardiola’s attitude was extremely unpleasant. The whole Manchester City dugout was because if anybody should have been complaining, it was the Porto bench, because we were extremely hard done by.”