Chelsea’s No9 missing revealed as Borussia Dortmund see Yellow Wall power restored – Champions League hits and misses | Football News

21 shots, no goals – Chelsea’s ‘no 9’ result

Chelsea's Joao Felix shouts after failing to score during the Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match between Borussia Dortmund and Chelsea FC in Dortmund, Germany, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Joao Felix saw a number of chances fall to Dortmund as Chelsea failed to score

It was a painfully familiar story for Chelsea. They don’t have the cutting edge to see off their opposition without targeting any recognized No 9s and while that’s not a new problem, it’s one that Graham Potter must now solve with his new-look, multi-million pound squad.

It’s clear the talent is there. Mykhailo Mudryk looks more confident with each game and Joao Felix was impressive against Dortmund on Wednesday, finding those clever spaces. He had plenty of chances and on another night, he could have scored a hat-trick.

Enzo Fernandez was much quieter and was caught by Karim Adeyemi’s speed for Dortmund’s goal, while other attacking-minded Chelsea players such as Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz had brief moments of quality.

The statistics speak for themselves. Chelsea had 21 shots, eight on target and an xG of 2.13, but no goals. Far from outnumbered, they went toe-to-toe with an updated Dortmund on one of the most intimidating grounds in European football and dominated the second half.

“The performance was a big step forward for us tonight,” Potter rightly concluded, but the simple fact is that without a recognized and reliable No 9, Chelsea will continue to struggle.

But players like him are at a premium and command fees as such. Even the free-spending Todd Boehly can’t conjure up a striker if there isn’t one

You also wonder why Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang was left out of the Champions League squad when goals are Chelsea’s Achilles heel.

On the plus side, Chelsea were pretty good defensively. Yes, there were a few left on the counter, but overall they did well and it’s welcome to see Reece James and Ben Chilwell start together again for the first time since October.

And the formula is really quite easy – if Chelsea start putting a few more of those 21 chances at the other end and keep relatively tight at the back, they will improve their form.

But ultimately their defeat at Dortmund – while still not a critical blow to their Champions League hopes – epitomized how the lack of a No 9 continues to have a damaging effect.
Charlotte Marsh

The Yellow Wall of Dortmund has been restored

Borussia Dortmund failed to make it past the group stage last season, but they didn’t have the Yellow Wall in full force then. The decision not to impose seating on the famous terrace for Champions League matches could have an impact.

That’s how it felt as they fended off Chelsea’s second-half attacks, forcing defenders into blocks, begging goalkeeper Gregor Cobel to keep out the opposition. Twelfth man? That doesn’t seem to do justice when there are over 20,000 on the Sudtribune.

They were in place even before the players started their warm-ups, a factor throughout. “It was very strong,” Dortmund coach Edin Terzic said afterwards. “You could already feel it during warmups. Our fans really hit the ball out of the park tonight.”

However, a more confident Chelsea side may have punished Dortmund. They will hope to do the job themselves once in front of their own fans in the second leg in March. It would certainly be a surprise if Terzic’s side go all the way in this competition.

But the sight of Cobell receiving a standing ovation from the crowd long after the final whistle left you wondering just how much that mattered. They weren’t a team that over-celebrated in the middle of a tie. Just a club that enjoys that union between player and fan. The Yellow Wall was restored.
Adam Bate

Skip, Sar positive for Spurs

Tottenham's Pape Sarr in action for Spurs against AC Milan
Tottenham’s Pape Sarr in action for Spurs against AC Milan

Antonio Conte will bemoan the defensive sloppiness that allowed Brahim Diaz to score AC Milan’s winner at the San Siro, but there were positives in Tottenham’s 1-0 defeat. First, that Spurs kept the tie open before the second leg. And secondly, the appearances of Pape Sarr and Oliver Skipp in his midfield.

Char had never appeared in the competition before. In fact, this was only the 20-year-old’s sixth appearance for Spurs Any competition. But alongside Skip, making his Champions League debut at 22, he didn’t look out of place.

The pair were pressed into action by circumstances, of course, with Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg suspended and Rodrigo Bentancur joining the injured Yves Bissouma on the sidelines after rupturing his ACL in Saturday’s 4-1 Premier League defeat by Leicester.

But against a much more experienced midfield duo of Sandro Tonali and Rade Krunic, they competed well, using the ball neatly and, particularly in Sarr’s case, defending like a tiger.

The Senegal international made five tackles and won possession 12 times – four more than any other player on the pitch.

“It’s nice to have the coach’s confidence,” Skip said BT Sport Then, before Conte added, in his own interview, the academy product and his younger team-mate had “repaid” that trust. “I’m really pleased for both players,” added the Spurs boss.

In Hojbjerg, Conte will have to have at least one of his midfielders for next month’s second leg in north London, but Sarr and Skipp have shown they can deliver when called upon.

“Having these kinds of performances from Skippy and Sarr makes me more relaxed,” Conte added. “I know I can trust them 100 percent.”
Nick Wright

Leao dazzles as Milan return to CL knockouts

Oliver Skipp challenges Rafael Leao at the San Siro
Oliver Skipp challenges Rafael Leao at the San Siro

There was very little to get excited about at the San Siro on Tuesday night.

But Milan’s star striker Rafael Leao was the exception. Despite not having a decisive impact in the tie, the Portugal international managed to dazzle in Milan’s return to the knockout stages of the Champions League after a nine-year absence.

Leao teased Tottenham with his quick feet and showed exactly why he is such a sought after man. Completed the same number of dribbles (9) as every other player on the court combined. That’s more than any player has netted in a single Champions League game this season.

Although he takes more risks than most, Leao hardly misses the ball. Spurs only managed to clear him twice as he attempted 12 dribbles, twice as many as the next closest player. The ball seems to stick to his feet to the annoyance of opposition defenders, who can’t help but hack him.

Leao uses his large frame to good effect in physical combat as well. No player won more tackles than him on Tuesday night (13) as he kept Spurs’ vulnerable defense at the back.

The lackluster pace of Tuesday’s game may have led some neutrals to a Valentine’s Day alternative, but Leao is the kind of player to keep you watching just in case. His unpredictable demeanor makes you feel like something special could happen at any moment when he’s on the field.

The only criticism that could be leveled at Leao on Tuesday night was his reluctance to pass earlier. Once they started to get the ball into the Spurs box, Milan had two glorious chances to extend their lead and probably should have come away with an assist.

Leao remains deadlocked with the Italian champions over a contract extension with his deal set to run until June 2024. Premier League clubs are almost certain to be called if those negotiations continue into the summer.
Ginny Boswell

Leave a Comment