Chelsea FC: Complacency Knocked Blues Out Of Champions League


“Tonight we will do everything we can to try and get the result to put us in the last eight”

Those were Jose Mourinho’s last words before going pitchside to manage his team in their Champions League round of 16 matchup against Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday.

Playing to an acceptable 1-1 result last month in the French capital set up a second leg scenario in which a Mourinho team has never been eliminated. But after 120 turbulent minutes of football it was the Parisian’s getting their revenge 2-2 (thru on away goals) at Stamford Bridge, advancing to the quarterfinals.

Despite Chelsea FC having a man advantage for 89 minutes after PSG were unjustly (upon slo-mo review) sans Zlatan, the Blues squandered the opportunity to progress. Referee Bjorn Kuipers’ incorrect decision to send off the Swede (one of many on the night) for his collision with Oscar didn’t deter Laurent Blanc’s motivated Ligue 1 side who were able to take advantage of a sluggish Chelsea.

In fact, the best collective effort from the Blues on the night was appealing for the mercurial forward to be sent off. The French champions capitalized on a home team that seemed more intent on maintaining a clean sheet and advancing via the away goal rule than going on the offensive with a man advantage.

Credit: CFC Unofficial

Prior to the round of 16 draw Mourinho had spoken to the press saying that he wanted to be drawn against PSG for reasons of travel convenience and the good test the French champions could bring to motivate his squad. Those words paired with revenge on the mind for last year’s late defeat fueled the motivational flame for PSG and their captain Thiago Silva, who felt that Chelsea and particularly Jose Mourinho “lacked respect for us”.

But as shown by the Blues apprehensive approach Wednesday, they possibly were too fearful of the threat PSG possessed. At times in the second half watching the match you could forget they had an extra player as they sat back and let the Parisians dictate the tempo.

Now that’s something usual to see from a Mourinho-coached club but this time, without any incisive counter-attacking play, Chelsea had to wait for a goal from the unlikely foot of Gary Cahill to break the deadlock 81 minutes in.

Perhaps the cautious game plan comes from Mourinho’s arrogance to rely upon his teams’ defensive invincibility to see them through. As his quotes earlier showed the interest was on getting the RESULT to advance instead of a victory. Mourinho has always been one that would much rather win a game in his patented, 2-0 style instead of with a 3-1 scoreline.

Counting on Branislav Ivanovic’s goal to be enough in the first leg and playing too cautious in Paris also hampered Chelsea’s efforts as they unfortunately learned – the visiting side always possesses the more dangerous threat.

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Much too often Wednesday, Chelsea’s offensive movement became static as Diego Costa or Branislav Ivanovic would control the ball in areas that Chelsea’s more creative players should have it. Having Oscar and Cesc Fabregas in the starting eleven to play the same role restricted the abilities of each.

Ramires again showed that he can run up and down the pitch for 90 minutes but his forward play left a lot to be desired in that position. With the likes of Loic Remy and Juan Cuadrado available on the bench you have to wonder why they weren’t subbed on to bring a bit of variety when it was desperately needed.

Kudos must be given to PSG’s midfield though as Thiago Motta, Marco Verratti, and Blaise Matuidi’s combined to shutdown Chelsea’s midfield attacking threats.

For a striker who was brought in to be Chelsea FC’s scoring answer in key games Diego Costa did not live up to the billing. Instead the hot-headed part of his advertisement was in the spotlight as he battled all-night with PSG’s Brazilian defense.

The Spanish international’s reckless approach hindered Chelsea FC’s attack. After his (correct) appeal for a penalty went uncalled in the 43rd minute, Costa did not factor much into the outcome. Allowing himself to be swept up by ex-Blue David Luiz and co.’s pestering, the Brazilians were able to take their former compatriot Costa out of his game.

Credit: CFC Unofficial

Three times this round Chelsea had the lead and all three times PSG found their way back even, scoring each via a crossed-in header. For Chelsea to be bounced out of the Champions League by conceding goals in such an uncharacteristic manner is extremely frustrating. David Luiz’s darting header just five minutes after Gary Cahill’s goal was a result of his marker, Branislav Ivanovic, getting lost in the crowd in the box.

Thiago Silva was able to expertly place his header over Thibaut Courtois’ reach just 20 seconds after being denied by a great save from the Belgian. Both John Terry and Gary Cahill were too focused on each other to contest the Selecao captain’s unmarked effort. With six players over six feet tall on the pitch Chelsea were not short on players to clear the threats but miscommunication during the deliveries cost them dearly.

Overall, the performance was listless. With the club celebrating their eleventh decade of existence a day earlier, the current crop of players underwhelmed Wednesday night. The early removal of the gamechanger Ibrahimovic did change the game, but in the most bizarro way.

Instead of forcing their way thru to the round of 8, the Blues saw the red card as the equivalent of stepping on an automatic door sensor opening up their way to the next stage. Without Andre Schurrle and Demba Ba’s late heroics to save them this time Chelsea FC are now out of Europe with only the remainder of the Premier League season left on their schedule. This team is undoubtedly better than the one that advanced last year. Maybe the players thought too much of the same.

Until next time, Champions League.

Next: Expectations Against Southampton

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