Thursday 24 October 2019

Spot of bother for Barkley as Chelsea feel early pressure

Chelsea 0 Valencia1

Ross Barkley: Blasts over. Photo: Getty
Ross Barkley: Blasts over. Photo: Getty

Sam Wallace

The No 8 on his back and a penalty in the Champions League at a critical moment for Stamford Bridge, but Ross Barkley was unable to show the same composure as his manager once channelled to rescue Chelsea in moments such as these.

Not, it should be said, that there were many times during Frank Lampard's days as a Chelsea player when his team found themselves a goal behind and four minutes remaining at home against opposition they would usually expect to beat.

Barkley was first to the ball after the referee Cuneyt Cakir was called away by his video assistant colleague to review a handball decision, and while the Englishman, on as a substitute, was adamant he was the man, his execution was poor. This was his Champions League debut and there was a brief word with Jorginho, who seemed to think he had the claim on the spot-kick, as did Willian.

The play had been stopped after a long period of the ball being in play, when the VAR advised Cakir to check a blatant handball from Daniel Wass.

Chelsea's Olivier Giroud shoots during the UEFA Champions League Group H at Stamford Bridge, London. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire
Chelsea's Olivier Giroud shoots during the UEFA Champions League Group H at Stamford Bridge, London. Photo: Nick Potts/PA Wire

Penalty was the correct decision and, with Chelsea chasing down a one-goal deficit, suddenly it looked like an equaliser was within their grasp.

Barkley took charge of the ball and then struck it against the bar.

Defeat in the first group game means there will be little room for error, and certainly Chelsea must win at the Mestalla on November 27.

Ajax swept aside Lille 3-0 in the other group game and Chelsea now find themselves needing to win when they visit the French side early next month.

There is plenty for Lampard to ponder. A pedestrian attack that an opponent struggling in the Spanish top flight seemed to control relatively easily, and little ambition in midfield.

Chelsea were unlucky to concede the second-half goal from Rodrigo, but these are the margins in- Europe's elite competition.

Valencia's Rodrigo Moreno scores their first goal. Photo: Reuters/Hannah McKay
Valencia's Rodrigo Moreno scores their first goal. Photo: Reuters/Hannah McKay

Lampard picked the same team that had finished the win over Wolves on Saturday, and they certainly carried a little of that confidence back into the Champions League after last season's journey in the second-class carriage of European football.

The struggle before half-time was to break down a Valencia team set up by new manager Albert Celades to counter-attack strongly and sit in front of their area at other times.

Lampard's side looked at their best when they got the ball in quickly to Tammy Abraham and Willian, although they did that rarely.

On the touchline, their manager seemed to be willing them to go quicker and earlier with their passes.

It was not helped by the enforced early substitution of Mason Mount, who fell to a very bad tackle by Francis Coquelin, the former Arsenal midfielder, a follow-through that smashed into the Chelsea man's right ankle and trapped his foot against the ground. Mount did his best to soldier on after treatment but, eventually, Lampard insisted and Mount was replaced by Pedro, who took his time to adjust to the pace of the game.

Capable

In 13th in La Liga after four games, Valencia lacked confidence in attack, although they showed occasionally that they were capable of some crisp passing.

The away side certainly grew in confidence after the break, as it became obvious that Chelsea were not about to overwhelm them at any point.

When the change did come it was Kurt Zouma who came out of the back three to make room for Olivier Giroud.

It was a poor challenge from Mateo Kovacic on Jose Gaya that gave away a free-kick just moments after Giroud had come on.

Pedro had been moved over to fill a space at right wing-back while Azpilicueta filled Zouma's position.

Among them they managed to lose the run of Rodrigo, who got a slight touch on Daniel Parejo's free-kick, which took it past Kepa Arrizabalaga.

A calamity for Lampard, and now the pressure was on Chelsea to break down an opponent who sensed a famous win.

With Barkley on for Kovacic and the panic setting in, Lampard's players at last stepped pressed with an urgency that had been lacking. Even after Barkley's penalty miss, there was an Alonso free-kick saved as Valencia held out. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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