Chelsea are through to the Champions League knockout rounds, avoiding the fate that befell the team in 2013. And that’s good.
Less good is how tough we continue to make things for ourselves, by not putting games to bed when given multiple opportunities, and continuing to give up silly goals at the other end. And it’s not just the fans or the manager who are frustrated by these problems.
Captain César Azpilicueta, who scored a rare goal that turned out to be the winning goal (just his 11th in 358 appearances for the club), has been beating a similar drum for a while now, and did so again after last night’s 2-1 win over Lille.
“It has been happening a lot lately where we play much better than the score suggests and at 2-1 we had to suffer in the last minutes because obviously we needed to win. I hope we can finish the games earlier and enjoy them more.”
“We are conceding a lot of goals [as well]. Tonight Lille arrived once and scored one goal so this is obviously frustrating because we had to suffer in the last seconds when you know one silly goal could send us into the Europa League.”
Fortunately, a second (silly) goal did not arrive, although former Chelsea backup striker Loïc Rémy did have a decent chance to collect a brace on his return to Stamford Bridge with a late chance. But he slashed it short of the near post — thanks! — and Chelsea held on.
By the time this competition resumes in a couple months, the team may look different, may feel different, and may even play different. Attentions now turn to the Premier League and the FA Cup, though the improvements needed translate just the same. The work remains the same, the challenges similar, the mentalities even stronger.
“It was very important to have a reaction from Saturday’s game. We started very well and scored two goals but in the second half we didn’t find our rhythm. We could still have scored more goals but we didn’t and in the end we had to suffer.”
“When we play in the Champions League, we know that every detail is very important so hopefully we can sort this as soon as possible.
“To be with the best 16 teams in Europe is very important to test ourselves. It feels so good. The Champions League is where Chelsea belongs but we knew it was a tough group and that’s what we’ve seen. [But] now we have to put it to one side, we know we are going to be in the draw for the last-16 and we have to be focused on the Premier League and the FA Cup which starts in January.”
-César Azpilicueta; source: Chelsea FC
Onwards and upwards!