Holders Chelsea took a step towards the quarter-finals with their 2-0 home success against LOSC on Tuesday night.
In this article presented by FedEx, UEFA’s technical observer panel looks at the counterattacking ability and switches of play which served them well in that round of 16 first-leg victory.
1-0: Kai Havertz (8)
Chelsea’s breakthrough came from a Hakim Ziyech corner which followed a Leo Jardim save as Havertz’s shot concluded a flowing move featuring seven Chelsea outfield players who combined to speed the ball from one box to the other. Cue a corner at which the unmarked Havertz ran from the back of the box and around a team-mate to reach the ball as it dropped just outside the five-metre box, nodding it into the ground and up into the net.
2-0: Christian Pulišić (63)
Chelsea highlighted their excellence on the break after a LOSC attack broke down at the feet of substitute Ruben Loftus-Cheek. Thiago Silva fed N’Golo Kanté who, from 15 metres inside his own half, carried the ball to just outside the ‘D’ of the opposition box before sliding it to Pulišić to his left. The American took two touches and then, with his third, lifted the ball beyond Leo Jardim.
Player of the Match: N’Golo Kanté
UEFA’s technical observer cited a range of qualities when dissecting the French midfielder’s terrific all-round performance: his technical quality, the intensity of his efforts to win the ball back (ten recoveries), and his use of the ball when he had it. And this being Kanté, there was also the ground he covered, as illustrated by his surging run which set up the second goal.
Chelsea set up with a 3-4-3 in which their centre-backs – particularly Andreas Christensen (4) and Antonio Rüdiger (2) – sought to start advances with diagonal balls to the wing-backs, César Azpilicueta (28) and Marcos Alonso (3), which tested the ability of the LOSC midfield to get across and cover. Mateo Kovačić (8) and Kanté (7), the two central midfielders, kept up a high tempo and had three forward players ahead of them who always looked to be on the move, be it finding spaces between the lines or making runs deep. This last point was particularly true of Havertz (29) and Pulišić (10) whereas Ziyech (22) preferred balls to his feet.
Without the ball, meanwhile, the Chelsea full-backs dropped back, forming a five-man line with the central defenders some 25-30 metres from their goal which helped the team stay compact. With Ziyech and Pulišić falling back too, this meant a 5-4-1 shape out of possession.
The French titleholders had a 4-3-3 formation (morphing at times into a 4-2-3-1) with a good connection between their defensive and midfield lines, not least through the steadily impressive work of midfield pivot Xeka (8) , who also tried to influence the game offensively (two key passes). This connection helped them stay quite solid defensively, albeit with the ball, though the French champions had less success in linking with a forward line spearheaded by Jonathan David (9).
Of their attacking players, Renato Sanches (18) caught the eye on the right with his composure on the ball, particularly in the first half; one early ball from the Portuguese almost led to Rüdiger slicing the ball into his own net. On the left side, Jonathan Bamba (8) warrants credit too as he provided three key passes and had more attempted crosses (12) than any other player involved in this week’s UEFA Champions League action.
Chelsea began the game at a fast rhythm, moving the ball quickly between the lines. A strong feature of their game is the intensity of their transitional play. With their mobile forwards they break forward at high speed and, as mentioned above, one such flowing move led to the corner from which Havertz broke the deadlock. They were also quick at getting back into defensive positions on losing the ball. In this respect, it helps to have a midfielder like Kanté capable of getting around the field, contesting duels and winning the ball back.
This was Chelsea’s fifth consecutive clean sheet at home in the competition – a first for an English club in the European Cup/Champions League. Thomas Tuchel has a goalkeeper in Édouard Mendy with excellent powers of concentration and in front of him Thiago Silva was formidable in his tactical reading of the game, making 12 recoveries across the 90 minutes as well as winning four of his five aerial duels.
Overall, Chelsea limited LOSC to shots from distance mainly, as the visiting forwards struggled to impose themselves on the hosts’ back five, not helped by the inability of their midfielders to get up to lend support. Hence while LOSC recorded 15 goal attempts, only two were on target compared to the home side’s four from eight attempts. Chelsea, with their winning mentality and more clinical touch, hold the advantage.
Thomas Tuchel, Chelsea coach
“We have another clean sheet and a well-deserved one. It was hard not to allow chances as they were a strong team. It was a bit up and down, but we never gave big chances away and were solid.
“We changed the structure at half-time to have a block of five with three in midfield. Then we created chances, got the goal but then became passive and dropped too deep. From there we suffered a bit.”
Jocelyn Gourvennec, LOSC coach
“Chelsea always dominate games and have a lot of possession. We almost matched them in that. That means we were in the game. They were more clinical. We had the ball a lot. We made very few mistakes but those we did make gave them two goals.
“We conceded avoidable goals. We weren’t beaten by some moments of magic, but from a corner and a nicely played counterattack. I think it’s harsh given what we produced.”