Coming into last night’s game, Chelsea were looking for not only our first point(s) but our first away league goal against non-relegation-bound opposition in 2019. Other than the 2-1 wins over Fulham and Cardiff City, Chelsea’s away results had included losses of 2-0 (Arsenal, Everton, Liverpool), 4-0 (Bournemouth), and 6-0 (Manchester City). Almost all of those losses featured 10-15 spells wherein Chelsea completely collapsed and practically sealed the fate of the match already.
A prime example was the away game two weeks prior, up at Anfield, where Chelsea conceded twice in quick succession at the start of the second half, and that was that — game over.
This problem wasn’t lost on Sarri, who mentioned it during the pre-match buildup, nor was it unfamiliar for Captain Azpilicueta, who praised Chelsea’s strong response to the home side’s opener in the 17th minute.
“I think in the first half we didn’t start well. We conceded that early goal and it put us in difficulty. But the team stayed in the game, I thought it was important not to concede quick goals like we did against Liverpool. We had a good first half but in the second half straight away we conceded two goals in two minutes, so obviously the game was more difficult.
“Today, okay we conceded that goal but after that the team stayed in the game, we scored that goal before half-time which was very important.
“In the second half the team grew in confidence, we found more spaces and we created more chances. I think to come here we knew they’d start the game strong, they had a great chance to go level with us in terms of points. Even though the first half wasn’t the best we managed to get back in the game, after half-time the belief of the team was very strong, we felt we could win and we showed that in the last 45 minutes.”
-César Azpilicueta; source: Metro
With the point gained, Chelsea have a couple toes in next year’s Champions League. But a lot can still happen in the remaining two games, against Watford (H) and Leicester City (A) on the final day. Four points, at minimum, are required.
Before that, we also have at least two games left in the Europa League, too, three if we make the final. Standing in our way are Eintracht Frankfurt, and to beat them and win the competition, we’ll need similar levels of belief and confidence as shown in the second-half last night — maybe with a few more goals though.