Chelsea began their UEFA Champions League campaign on a sour note as Valencia handed them a 1-0 defeat at home on Tuesday.
The match started in concerning fashion for Chelsea, as a horrendous tackle by Francis Coquelin forced Mason Mount to be taken off within 16 minutes of his Champions League debut. Thereafter, chances came few and far between, with Willian coming the closest to breaking the deadlock in the first half.
Post the break, Chelsea very nearly took the lead through a Marcos Alonso free-kick, only for Jasper Cillessen to desperately parry the ball away. Alonso then came close with a header from the resulting corner, but Chelsea were just not able to find the back of the net. And, their night would soon become more frustrating.
A clever free-kick routine saw Valencia take the lead in the 74th minute, as Rodrigo Moreno slipped past the Chelsea defence before beating Kepa Arrizabalaga. But, Chelsea were given a way to salvage a point when they were awarded a penalty for a handball by Daniel Wass.
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After much drama, Ross Barkley stepped up to take the penalty but ended up skying his effort. And so, the hosts would find no way back in the game, meaning Frank Lampard became the first ever Chelsea boss to lose his maiden Champions League game in-charge of the Blues. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Lampard’s charges.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 6/10
A quiet game for the most part for Kepa, with Valencia not threatening much over the course of the game. Distributed the ball well. But, when he was finally called into action, he was not equal to Rodrigo’s effort and his weak attempt at a save could not thwart the Spaniard. Again leaves much to be desired with his shot-stopping.
Kurt Zouma: 6/10
Back into the side in place of Antonio Rudiger, Zouma was much improved as compared to the last time he was in action, although his tendency to sneak in an error was on display once again. Fortunately for him this time, his gaffe did not cost Chelsea.
Much improved while building up play from the back, as he moved the ball quickly and precisely. Taken off in the second half as Lampard sought to add men in the final third. A step in the right direction.
Andreas Christensen: 7/10
Starting in the middle of Chelsea’s back-three once again, Christensen showed great leadership and composure to absorb whatever little pressure Valencia looked to create. Made up for an initial error by Fikayo Tomori to stop the opposition counter-attack. Nearly pulled Chelsea level deep into injury time, but his header was just wide.
Fikayo Tomori: 7/10
Handed a third successive start in the Chelsea defence, Tomori impressed on his UEFA Champions League debut. Following an early error, the young defender found his feet and made a couple of good recoveries.
Nearly scored another wonder goal when he took aim at goal at the end of a fine run. Earned Chelsea the late penalty that Barkley missed. Tomori is doing his bit to nail down his place as a regular in the side.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 6.5/10
Compared to some of his disastrous performances previously, this was a much improved display by Azpilicueta. The Chelsea captain carried more threat than he has in any of the games so far this term, creating an early chance for Willian before nearly scoring himself late in the game. Room for improvement remains on the defensive front, though, with Denis Cheryshev troubling him at times.
Chelsea’s pass master was in his elements once again when Valencia came visiting. Spread play well with his pinpoint cross-field balls and also did not shy away from making himself available in the final third. But, he switched off in the lead-up to Rodrigo’s goal, in a moment that was a dampener in an otherwise solid outing.
Mateo Kovacic: 6/10
A mixed bag of a performance for Kovacic, who drove his team forward with precise forward passes, including one exquisite ball to Willian that was wasted. But, the Croat was anonymous on the defensive front, as the Valencia attack almost passed him by at times during their counters. Gave away the free-kick that led to the winner.
Marcos Alonso: 6.5/10
Starting in his favoured left wing-back role, Alonso was one of the better players for Chelsea on the night. The Spaniard constantly looked to make things happen and nearly scored twice within a minute. Unsurprisingly, he was overrun defensively, with Dani Parejo having much joy on his flank and amping the pressure on Tomori. All in all, though, it was a positive performance.
A game of hits and misses for Willian, who posed a great deal of threat in the final third with his directness. But, as has been the case with the Brazilian for a long time, his end product was lacking severely.
Decision making left a lot to be desired as well and a moment wherein he could have sent Barkley clean through on goal but chose not to stood out. Hard to see him remain a regular when Lampard has a full-strength squad at his disposal.
Tammy Abraham: 5/10
Another Chelsea player making his Champions League bow. But, Tammy Abraham, fresh off his hat-trick against Wolves this past weekend, seemed to be affected by the nerves of the occasion. After an early opportunity, the young striker failed to get himself into the game and saw it pass him by.
Mason Mount: N/A
A big night for Mason Mount ended just 16 minutes in as a horror challenge from Francis Coquelin forced him off the pitch. Chelsea fans would hope his injury is nothing serious.
Brought on earlier than he would have anticipated, Pedro had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders. But, in his first appearance in nearly a month, the Spaniard showed signs of rust and never really managed to catch up to the pace of the game. Also gave the ball away on numerous occasions. A disaster of epic proportions.
Olivier Giroud: 5/10
Brought on in place of Zouma to add more bodies in and around the Valencia box, Giroud never really managed to influence play and apart from shooting straight at Cillessen, did not manage to grab hold of any chances.
Ross Barkley: 4/10
Usually, we would not give a rating to players coming on after the 75th minute. But, Barkley’s gaffe and conduct before taking the penalty did not see him paint himself in any glory. Not to mention the horrible spot-kick, which could have helped Chelsea salvage a point, was it converted.