Chelsea’s three-match winning streak in all competitions came to a shuddering halt last night against AS Roma, with things going pear-shaped literally from minute one as Pedro missed a chance at one end and El Shaarawy scored a typical worldie at the other.
And while the Blues responded to that early setback with some excellent pressure and solid attacking play — save for several sloppy passes and even sloppier finishing — a Hazard knock, a really stupid second conceded goal, and just a complete lack of spirit in the second-half consigned Chelsea to yet another horrendous Champions League defeat on Italian soil.
The second goal itself would’ve been cause for plenty of soul-searching afterwards, though Chelsea one-upped that mistake with much more consistent shambolic defending in the second-half (even if we were only made to pay once). When asked about that goal, Courtois tried to explain it away by citing the noise — it was apparently a really loud and good atmosphere, but thanks to the poor audio mix on Fox Soccer Match Pass, I personally heard none of that — but there’s a decent chance that a lack of awareness and just a bit of confusion (with players swapped all over the place in the wake of a free kick) contributed just as much.
“The secong goal is a bit unfortunate. It was a long ball and I saw El Shaarawy going to the back of Toni. I shouted ‘away!’ but maybe he understood something else since there was a lot of noise in the stadium and he let the ball go and El Shaarawy was quicker to the ball [than Azpilicueta].”
Despite that mistake, Courtois revealed that Chelsea “felt good” at the half since they felt they had “played well” — matching similar comments from Conte and many observers, including most of us at WAGNH Towers — but then the second half was just one big giant implosion and Chelsea’s inconsistencies and uncharacteristic (based on last season) troubles at the back reared their ugly heads again.
“I thought we played well in the first half but in the second half we seemed to drop our fighting spirit and I don't know what happened.”
“It is hard to say what the problem is. This season every game is a hard game. We have to find that balance again and rediscover that mentality of not conceding goals and keeping clean sheets.
“Sometimes last season I had nothing to do in a game, sometimes I'd have one save to make. We have to react on Sunday as this was a bad image of ourselves.
“We have to fight back against Manchester United.”
-Thibaut Courtois; source: Chelsea FC
Good words from Courtois; now they have to be matched in spirit, in action, and in performance on Sunday.