Chris Pulisic matched a Lionel Messi record which has stood for 10 years with a dazzling performance for Chelsea against Porto.
Although the Blues were beaten 1-0 by the Portuguese club on Tuesday night, they progressed to the Champions League semi-finals and Pulisic was a standout performer, picking up the UEFA Man of the Match award.
The 22-year-old was a constant menace for Porto’s defence and drew 11 fouls during the second leg of the quarter-final.
That is the most any player has been fouled in a single Champions League fixture since 2011, when Messi was hacked up and down the pitch by Real Madrid in the semi-finals.
Matching the Argentina legend’s record is not only a clear indication of Pulisic’s dribbling ability, but also the confidence he is playing with.
After a challenging season during which he went almost four months without scoring, the American has netted three goals in his last two Premier League games to force his way back into Thomas Tuchel’s plans.
Pulisic was hindered by muscle injuries earlier in the campaign but claims he is back in peak condition just in time for the crucial run-in.
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“I am doing my best to take care of myself,” he told Chelsea’s official website. “I have got to take care of my body and be strong and healthy for all the games.
“It has not been an easy season, there has been a lot of coming in and coming out and injuries, but I’m feeling healthy and strong right now.”
Pulisic appears to be flourishing in a floating attacking midfield role under Tuchel, with the German’s wing-back system freeing him of the defensive duties required of a winger.
The pair know each other well from their time at Borussia Dortmund and Tuchel last month admitted it was “unfair” that Pulisic found himself out of the starting line-up.
“He was a bit unlucky in the last few games,” said Tuchel. “It isn’t a lack of trust or quality, it is just that he will have to be patient.”
The Blues boss called for his No.10 to wait for his opportunity and grasp it – and Pulisic has done just that.
He has come good at the optimal time for Chelsea, with the top-four race in full swing and a Champions League semi-final showdown with Real Madrid or Liverpool on the horizon.
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