Chelsea 0 Sevilla 0: Blues keep a rare clean sheet but lose creative spark in dour Champions League stalemateOctober 20, 2020
THIS would not have been a compelling advert for an expanded European Super League.
The American investment bankers at JP Morgan are supposedly trying to fund a new invitation-only competition to replace the Champions League.
Yet this game of few chances – in which two quality teams cancelled each other out – would not have impressed the Yanks all that much.
For Frank Lampard, however, a spot of sanity and boredom will have been welcome.
This was the first goalless draw of Lampard’s Stamford Bridge reign as Chelsea cured their defensive incontinence against European football royalty.
This clean sheet will have felt almost as good as a victory for the Blues boss, such had been the growing discontent with his team’s defending.
Here though, was a first true glimpse of the new Chelsea – with all six of the club’s major signings on the pitch at once for the same time.
And it all looked more solid than it had done for most of last season and the start of this current campaign.
Europa League champions Sevilla are comfortably the toughest of Chelsea’s opponents in this group – so it should be considered a point gained rather than two lost.
The Blues have not reached the quarter-finals of this competition in the past six seasons but they had invested in some top-level European experience and here – unlike in recent 3-3 draws with West Brom and Spouthampton – they looked a proper, serious team.
The last time Chelsea played a Champions League match here, they had their backsides handed to them on a plate by Bayern Munich shortly before football’s lockdown.
Yet five of this starting line-up had been signed in a summer transfer splurge unseen since Roman Abramovich’s earliest days – including Thiago Silva, who skippered Paris St Germain in last season’s final.
Another new recruit, keeper Edouard Mendy, had returned to injury in place of the wretched Kepa Arrizabalaga and soon plunged to push out a Sergi Gomez header.
And bizarrely, earlier in the day, it had been announced that Chelsea’s 38-year-old director of football Petr Cech had been included in their 25-man Premier League squad as a back-up keeper.
This was apparently a response to the uncertainties of Covid, rather than Kepa’s inability to catch footballs.
Sevilla – who presumably hope to finish third in this group so they can win the Europa League as usual – were passing and moving at pace, Chelsea doing little of either.
The Spanish side had defeated Wolves, Manchester United and the Premier League old boys side of Inter Milan to lift that Europa League trophy in Germany in August.
And again Julen Lopetegui’s men showed their propensity for running rings down English-style opposition.
The visitors boasted the noisiest group of substitutes to be heard on these islands in the behind-closed-doors – their cheerleading vying with the constant jibber-jabber of Lopetegui on the touchline.
At times, it sounded as if you were at a packed Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan – one of Spanish football’s great steep cauldrons – rather than an empty Bridge.
Chelsea are a relatively quiet team, this season and last. You feel they could do with a bit more constructive shouting out there.
They didn’t have a serious effort on goal throughout the first half – Timo Werner scuffing an effort when well placed, Reece James sending over a couple of decent crosses for no reward.
But so often their attacks broke down as soon as they entered the final third.
Sevilla finished the half strongly – Suso headed wide at the far post, then Lucas Ocampos thudded a shot narrowly wide after Zouma had failed to clear a cross.
At least Chelsea’s defence had looked a lot tighter than usual, Early in the second period, Ben Chilwell’s corner picked out Zouma for a free header which deflected into the arms of keeper Bono, who was soon saving a curling shot from Werner.
This was much better from Lampard’s men – Kai Havertz, who’d been quiet, went on a buccaneering run and Chilwell headed at Bono from a James cross.Another summer signing, winger Hakim Ziyech, was sent on in place of Mount after an hour.
Yet it was largely a case of ‘defences on top’ – that phrase which has been expunged from the Premier League phrasebook this season.
From an Ivan Rakitic corner, Joan Jordan let rip with a volley which flew narrowly over.
But that was about that – a proper cagey European Cup tie of the old school.
We have rarely seen it like in domestic football of late and those American bankers might have to seriously increase their attention spans if they are going to fund many, many more fixtures like this.
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