Juventus win 1 – 0 against Chelsea. The Chelsea manager tried plenty. He sent on five second-half substitutes, including the lesser spotted Ross Barkley, and he made adjustments to his system, the biggest one being when he pushed up Kai Havertz as a second striker.
It was a night when Thomas Tuchel came to crave something, anything, in the final third. At first it was to blow this meeting of the Champions League Group H big guns open and later, as Juventus enjoyed the ascendancy given to them by the hugely impressive Federico Chiesa straight after half-time, it was simply to salvage a point.
But it was a night when Chelsea ran aground, when they simply lacked the guile to outmanoeuvre a Juventus defence led by Leonardo Bonucci. The captain had one of those nights when you wondered whether there was a better defender in Europe.
On 83 minutes, Romelu Lukaku finally spun away from him to the left of goal only to slice his shot slightly and sent it wide. That was the big chance, Chelsea’s main regret. It was not Lukaku’s night and it was not Havertz’s either. He headed a half chance off target in the 88th minute and another one at the very end. Juventus are in a strange period. For the first time since the end of the 2010-11 season, they cannot call themselves the champions of Italy and it certainly jarred on Tuesday of last week when Max Allegri, who is back in managerial charge, described the game at Spezia as a “relegation showdown.”
His team had made their worst start in 60 years and, although they won and followed it up with a victory over Sampdoria on Sunday, they are only tenth in the table. Allegri had started with Chiesa on the left but he moved him inside pretty quickly; the 4-1-4-1 becoming a 4-4-2, with Adrien Rabiot drifting to the left. Federico Bernardeschi, who started as the false nine, also dropped off at times. Chiesa’s pacewas a tonic for the hosts.
It was highly tactical – a game of patience, of pressing for a mistake or simply waiting for one. Mateo Kovacic made two inside the opening quarter and Chelsea were fortunate to get away with them. The first was a loose pass that went straight to Rabiot, who made ground and could see Bernardeschi free on the other side. He just had to play him in only he overhit the ball, much to the frustration of the home support.
The second came when Kovacic sold Andreas Christensen short on halfway and Chiesa powered away. Christensen, who was the last man, thought about checking him and then thought better. Chiesa, chased by Antonio Rüdiger, went a little wider than he might have liked before drilling past the far post.
Chelsea offered nothing as an attacking force in open play before the interval. Their one clear opening came early on when Marcos Alonso pulled a corner back low for Romelu Lukaku, who had peeled away into space. He had to take it first time on the spin and the technique had to be perfect. It was not, the shot lacking power and going straight at Wojciech Szczesny.
Juventus cursed when Bernardeschi hammered a free-kick from the edge of the area into the Chelsea wall. It was a forgettable first half.
But the second period exploded at the off. Rabiot won a header and it was Bernardeschi who prodded through for Chiesa, who, typically, was already on the move from right to left, giving an option, sensing possibility. Rüdiger tracked back but Chiesa’s finish was too cute, hammered into the near, top corner.
Tuchel had swapped Alonso for Ben Chilwell at half-time. Now his team needed to respond. They needed to move the ball quicker, to break Juventus’s lines. At the start of the game, the home team had looked a little nervy. How they grew. It became a test of Chelsea’s credentials. Tuchel shuffled. On came Trevoh Chalobah and Ruben Loftus-Cheek in midfield – which felt pretty experiemental. Callum Hudson-Odoi entered at right wing-back. The personnel changed but the approach did not. Chelsea probed slowly, patiently. And yet it was Juventus that almost scored again, as they looked increasingly sharp on the break.
Rabiot played a long diagonal out right and it was a lovely cushioned first time centre that created the chance for Bernardeschi in front of goal. He had to score only to lift over.
Tuchel moved Kai Havertz up front with Lukaku in a 3-1-4-2. When he brought on Barkley, he dropped back Chaloabh into the back three. The wing-backs pushed high. But there would be no way through.
Source – The Guardian