Chelsea are through to the Champions League knockout stage, after a 2-1 win against Rennes sealed by Olivier Giroud late goal. Drama in the Champions League is story as old as time for Chelsea, and tonight brought plenty of late twists once again.
The match started very brightly for Chelsea, with the Blues seeking an easy passage to the next round. Mason Mount found Callum Hudson-Odoi with a gorgeous pass, who finished with aplomb. It was reminiscent of the days when Cesc Fàbregas would ping balls for Diego Costa. Mount’s assist today was his first in the Champions League, the first of many hopefully, as he seeks to emulate the legendary Chelsea Old Guard.
Mason Mount Fantastic— Cesc Fàbregas Soler (@cesc4official) November 24, 2020
Unfortunately for us, Rennes began to grow into the game, and ended the first half with some very strong attacking moments. The second half continued to be more of the same, with Rennes striker Serhou Guirassy becoming an ever greater nuisance to Chelsea’s backline.
Édouard Mendy would concede his first Champions League goal for Chelsea to his former teammate in the 85th minute, with Guirassy heading in a corner, rising between both Kurt Zouma and Thiago Silva.
Frank Lampard expressed delight with his team’s mentality to push on after conceding late in the second half.
“I thought it showed a lot and it was one of the things which made me happy. First 30 minutes I thought we played really well and then the attitude of the players that came through tough times. A lot of corners tonight, I know they scored from one, but a lot of defending against a big, physical team. And then the reaction which is always easy to shut up shop.
“We knew a draw wasn’t the worst result, but to have players to have a push and desire to turn that around shows a little bit of the strength of the group. But that has to continue. We can’t claim that one of a one-off result.
“When I looked at the players who came into the game, Oli gets the goal, Hakim Ziyech was fantastic, and Kai and N’Golo. Then you seeing people who are not starting, some needed a rest, but making an impact and helping us to win the game and hopefully that strengthens us as a group as a whole.”
To counteract Rennes’ growing pressure, Lampard made some key substitutions, chief among them Olivier Giroud, N’Golo Kante, and Hakim Ziyech. Giroud’s impact to the match was his desire to continue into the box, after Kanté’s crucial interception, and Ziyech’s perfect pass to Timo Werner, whose deflected shot was pounced upon by Giroud for the game-winning goal.
Hakim Ziyech created more Big Chances (2) than any other player in the early Champions League kick-offs.— Squawka Football (@Squawka) November 24, 2020
He only played 15 minutes. ♂️ pic.twitter.com/Nsv3EQVVKC
Both Kanté and Ziyech brought new life and fresh legs to Chelsea’s performance, making an impact at both ends of the pitch. Chelsea’s star studded bench proved to be too much for Rennes to handle, as Lampard’s substitutions proved again to be the difference maker between a disappointing draw and a ticket to the knockout stages.
Overall, Lampard is starting to see his team grow into impressive form, with six consecutive victories across all competitions and undefeated since the disappointing penalty loss to Tottenham in the League Cup in late September.
Perhaps the best trend of all is the sense of competence, composure, and solidarity in Chelsea’s defense as of late, aided by the emergence of Mendy in goal and the synergy between Kurt Zouma and Thiago Silva.
“We can only work on ourselves. If you work on your performance and the team working together and the newer players are integrated and we’re working on the training ground and preparing right, hopefully the performance will come and I think we have certainly improved very quickly at the start of the season. Then hopefully the results follow.
“When we are efficient at both ends of the pitch which is something I felt last season we weren’t at times. We had games that we dominated possession in game but maybe didn’t take opportunities and won it. Then maybe we conceded freely when we hadn’t actually conceded many chances.
“Now we are seeing a bit more of a ruthless nature to us in terms of how we can keep trying to keep clean sheets. It’s not always possible, as we saw tonight, but defend well and score goals at the other end. But there is still a lot of work to do. We are certainly not the finished article. It would have been impossible to make the changes we did in the summer and expect everything straight away. That’s the whole reason we have to work and will continue doing that.”
- Frank Lampard, source: Football.London
Up next for Chelsea in the Champions League is Sevilla next Wednesday, which will likely decide the Group E winner.