After coming so incredibly close to a most historic comeback in the Champions League quarterfinals against Real Madrid, one might think that the takeaways from last night’s second leg would be all positive. After all, Chelsea went to the Santiago Bernabéu and absolutely dominated the home team for almost the entire 90 minutes of regulation, taking a 3-0 lead (up 4-3 on aggregate) at one point, even — “we were dead”, admitted the incomparable and ageless Luka Modrić, who then resuscitated his team with one of the greatest assists you’ll ever see.
But the opportunity to make that pass only came about because of a Chelsea error, just as Madrid’s eventual winner (on aggregate) would arrive thanks to some tired play in extra-time. And Chelsea errors were of course the story of the first leg as well, which put us into this predicament in the first place.
As head coach Thomas Tuchel reflected upon last night, that’s why there’s just as much disappointment as there is pride in the result and the performance, with Chelsea’s 3-2 “win” highlighting all of our best qualities but also some of the more recent (and not so recent) worrying hiccups.
Emotional leader Antonio Rüdiger, who scored the goal early in the second half to bring us level on aggregate but also had an unfortunate slip on Karim Benzema’s ultimate winner, shared his manager’s view as well.
“The positive is we didn’t give up. Not many teams can come and dominate them as we did. But over the two legs if you make these kind of mistakes like we did, you get punished.
“The game plan was to find our number 10s. To find the space. We found it and got the goal. We didn’t panic. In the second half we did everything we could but over the two legs, as I said, you make these mistakes you get punished.
“It was a do or die for us. I think before the game not everybody thought we would have the 3-0. For them the individual class comes to light with Modrić and Benzema.”
-Antonio Rüdiger; source: BT Sport via BBC
We have plenty of individual class as well of course, though obviously not quite (yet) on the level of those two legends of the game, who have been at this for a decade now, if not longer. But just like the time we got thoroughly outclassed by Bayern Munich a couple years ago, perhaps this chastening defeat can become a learning and growing experience for this still very young and growing and evolving core group at Chelsea. We can definitely hit the highest of heights, but to do so consistently and repeatably is another challenge entirely.
Until then, we can ensure that we have a mistake-free (and clinical!) run-in to the season, ensuring a fourth place finish and hopefully an FA Cup trophy.
Also, can we please be allowed to hand out new contracts again, dearest British politicians?
“Toni was outstanding. It was a world-class performance in all belongings. It is what he does on an extremely high level. It is his mentality and focus, and leadership all combined. It is outstanding. This is another example of what he can do after another. That’s it.”
-Thomas Tuchel; source: Metro