Chelsea managed to squeeze about 30 minutes of pretty good football out of themselves on Wednesday night. They had hosts NK Maribor on the ropes, chasing shadows and hanging on for dear life. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa both scored well-worked goals with easy-as-you-like finishes, before Hazard sealed the deal and his hat-trick with two goals from the penalty spot. Cool, confident, Chelsea.
The trouble is, most of that is what should've happened rather than what actually happened. Instead of cool, confident Chelsea, we had complacent, cumbersome Chelsea. Instead of well-taken goals, we had shocking misses. Instead of a Hazard hat-trick, we had a Hazard missed penalty. And while 30 minutes of good football is, well, good, the trouble is that football matches tend to last a little over 90 minutes. Surprise!
"When you play 90 minutes fantastically well it's the perfect match and its not easy to do, but Im not happy to play 45 minutes at a low intensity."
"Players are players but sometimes surprises can happen when players aren't fully focused. Only when Maribor scored they realised the game was in danger but after they scored it was a fantastic reaction. Everybody tried everything to win but football is football. Maribor deserved a liitle bit of luck, which they had, but not just luck, they fought and had a fantastic goalkeeper."
-Jose Mourinho; source: Chelsea FC
It was certainly dire for the first half and change, before Maribor's goal and the subsequent formation change to 3-5-2 sparked our game into life. At times it was entirely scatterbrained life -- paging Dr. Ivanovic; Dr. Ivanovic to defensive awareness please -- but it was life nonetheless. Those first 60 minutes or so however were some of the most uninspired football we have seen Chelsea play this year. Uninspired football is bound to happen more than once in any given season, and it's a credit to the players and manager that we've yet to actually lose this year*, but it's clear that our only enemy right now is complacency.
Ahead of the big game on Saturday, it's a good thing we got this out of our systems now. And last weekend against QPR. And a few days before then against Shrewsbury. For exorcisms, third time is the charm, right?
* Chelsea's 16-game unbeaten streak to start a season equals our best ever start, set in 2005-06.