If we ignore the score, there's plenty here from which to take heart. While that's not really a good 'if' to hang our hats onto — football is a results-oriented business, after all, especially in these trying times — but at least the process was good. And good process, that is, simply playing well in general, is not something we've had the privilege to witness often this season.
It wasn't all perfect by any means, even beyond the result. Dynamo Kiev were well and truly on top for a good 15-minute stretch at the end of the second half, and were it not for crucial interventions by Gary Cahill, Asmir Begovic, and Cesar Azpilicueta, we would've been staring another loss in the face. Instead, we gain a valuable away point. While we remain third in the group, we do still have every chance of still winning it, or at least advancing to the knockout rounds, with two home matches and an away trip to Maccabi Tel-Aviv left to contest.
Jose Mourinho made three crucial changes to his lineup on Tuesday, and those paid off handsomely for the most part. Eden Hazard and Nemanja Matic were both restored as starters, and both had performances befitting their full talents and capabilities rather than the mere shadows of which they had routinely showed so far this season. While they were both guilty of missing one absolutely glorious chance each, and Hazard hit the post as well with a quick-release shot that drew the best save from Shovkovskiy on the night, their full 90-minute showing of mostly normal service are hopefully a sign of things to come, rather than a deathrattle of things that used to be. Yes, Hazard even tracked back, though why he didn't go for the shot-fake to avoid a sliding Rybalka's block on the missed chance remains a mystery. Equally baffling was how Matic missed the open net towards the end of the first half after slow-juking his way through half the team.
Chelsea controlled the first half of play very well. Cesar Azpilicueta, back to playing left back in order to nullify dangerman Andriy Yarmolenko (and doing exactly that — hopefully Baba was taking notes on the bench), and Zouma, doing a credible Branislav Ivanovic impersonation on the right flank (at least as far as defending was concerned), gave us some of the best overall full back play we've seen this season. Cahill and Terry were solid in the middle; Matic and Ramires were an effective pivot pairing; Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas were not nearly as effective, but at least the former worked hard. The latter mostly decided to contribute with tame shots straight at the Dynamo goalkeeper.
Willian, unsurprisingly, was his usual dynamic self as well, and it was he who was next to get unlucky. Chelsea opened the second half as we finished the first, full of vim and vigor and intent. And Willian. The free kick that Willian won just a couple minutes in was ideally placed for Willian and in ideal range for Willian. The curl on the ball from Willian and the subsequent bounce off the bar from the curl of the ball from Willian were just a tiny bit non-ideal unfortunately. Willian stared in disbelief, as did everyone else.
Chelsea were pushing for a goal and had one arrived just then, it would've been nothing less than we had deserved. And that's without even really mentioning the big non-call when Fabregas was taken down by two inside the box. You deserve what you get, as the saying goes, and as our period of intense pressure abated and the match wound down, it were the hosts who looked more likely to score.
They found their confidence from a Chelsea set piece, of all things, which led to a counter through Yarmolenko (possibly the first time he had escaped attentions all match) and a good save from Begovic. Oscar's introduction for Fabregas, our only substitution of the match, changed little to stem the rising tide and a series of goal-mouth scrambles followed, not helped by poor clearances from the likes of Terry and Ramires. But Chelsea survived and we saw out a second successive clean sheet. Progress! Of sorts.
Still, plenty of positives to build on. Confident performances from many key players, and a generally solid look to the team even with "luxury" players like Eden Hazard in the side. Onwards and upwards!