Chelsea got off to a losing start in the Champions League, with Valencia earning a 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge.
Rodrigo scored the only goal of the game in the second half, while Ross Barkley missed a late penalty which would have brought Chelsea level.
But what did we learn from the Blues’ first home defeat of the season?
1. Frank Lampard’s Stamford Bridge hoodoo continues
Three games Chelsea have played at Stamford Bridge this season and three games they have failed to win. After draws against Leicester City and Sheffield United, both of which saw the Blues lose leads, Frank Lampard was handed his first home defeat since taking charge of Chelsea in the summer to add to the loss he tasted as Derby County manager last season.
Chelsea in the Europa League last season: 15 games, 0 defeats
Chelsea in the Champions League this season: 1 game, 1 defeat
A big step up in competition. pic.twitter.com/koJnTixxoF
— Coral (@Coral) September 17, 2019
Chelsea dominated most of the game and had their chances but were once again punished for their failure to take these opportunities. The likes of Tammy Abraham, Willian, Olivier Giroud and Barkley went close to getting on the scoresheet for the home side, with the latter missing a late penalty.
Keeping with the 3-4-2-1 formation used against Wolves, when Chelsea were searching for the opening goal, Lampard looked to Giroud to change the game – bringing the Frenchman on for Kurt Zouma.
Rather than switching to a four-man defence, it appears Chelsea stuck with three at the back, with Pedro slotting into the right wing-back role while Cesar Azpilicueta moved central.
But this proved costly as Chelsea were beaten by a well-worked set-piece situation, with the backline not yet having adjusted to the changes.
2. Player unrest not affecting Valencia on the pitch
It’s fair to say Valencia have not had the best time of late. Los Che sacked manager Marcelino last week, with the 54-year-old claiming it was due to his Copa del Rey success last season.
Not only was the sacking met with surprise, but it also brought disillusion from the fans and the players. Centre-back Ezequiel Garay was a notable star to voice his displeasure, calling the decision “not fair”, while players also refused to fulfil their media duties in the build-up to the Champions League opener.
As a result, not many expected Valencia to give Chelsea much of a game at Stamford Bridge. But Albert Celades’ side looked nothing like a team in unrest, playing well in both defence and attack.
When Chelsea had the ball, the Valencia defence and midfield formed a two-line block of four men each, frustrating Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic. In attack, Los Che were quick, having the better chances in the first half, and it was instinctive striker’s play from Rodrigo which gave Valencia the lead, getting a toe onto the end of Dani Parejo’s delightful free-kick.
The win was Valencia’s first over Chelsea at the seventh time of asking, following three draws and three defeats.
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3. Willian looking to fill Hazard’s void in Europe
When Eden Hazard left Chelsea in the summer, many fans were worrying who would take the Belgian’s place in making the difference in Europe.
While the decision to hand Willian the no.10 jersey was a controversial one in the eyes of the Blues faithful, the Brazilian looks like he is taking the monumental task of replacing Hazard upon himself.
Willian has fond memories of the Champions League, scoring 17 goals in the competition including nine for Chelsea – two more than Hazard managed for the Blues. And against Valencia, he was Chelsea’s biggest attacking threat, constantly running at the defence with his quick feet.
The Brazilian completed nine take-ons on Tuesday night – more than any other player in these very young group stages so far – and was fouled twice as he proved tough to legally stop. The only thing that was missing for Willian, however, was the final product as he looked guilty of overplaying sometimes, choosing to go alone when passing to a team-mate would have been the better option.
4. Cillessen proving to be one of the signings of the summer
Jasper Cillessen was an unhappy man at Barcelona last season, having to watch on as Marc-Andre ter Stegen put in strong performances week in, week out. The 30-year-old had not moved to the Nou Camp to play number two and was understandably looking for a move away in the summer.
Marc-André Ter Stegen and Jasper Cillessen were the only goalkeepers to keep a clean sheet away from home in the #UCL this evening.
Barcelona had them both last season. 🤝 pic.twitter.com/2qk6AjFdVN
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) September 17, 2019
Valencia was the destination for the Dutchman, replacing Neto who went the other way, costing Los Che €35m – and he is already looking to be value for money. Cillessen was excellent against Chelsea on Tuesday night, equal to everything the home side threw at him.
When Tammy Abraham got the slightest of touches onto an Azpilicueta cross, Cillessen was there. When Marcos Alonso looked for the bottom right corner with a free-kick, Cillessen was there. When Alonso looked for the top right corner with a free-kick, Cillessen was there.
The Dutchman made a grand total of six saves at Stamford Bridge and if he continues to put in top-level performances in the Champions League, Valencia will fancy their chances of reaching the knockout stages.
5. Ross Barkley risks inquiry over penalty move
As the clock ticked towards full-time, hope was running out for Chelsea. That was until they were awarded a late penalty, via VAR, for handball.
While referee Cuneyt Cakir was looking at the pitchside screen to make his decision, some Chelsea fans were already no doubt biting their nails at the prospect of Jorginho’s hop and kick penalty style. It’s effective but is a risk.
So when Cakir pointed to the spot, nobody could believe that Barkley had taken the ball and placed it. The Englishman shrugged off talk from Jorginho, Abraham – another capable penalty taker despite the Super Cup miss – and Willian, who looked almost reluctant to leave the area.
Eventually, Barkley got his argument across and the former Everton man was left to take the penalty and draw Chelsea level. But, as expected when a team-mate is stubborn to take a penalty, Barkley missed, with his shot clipping the top of the crossbar.
As a result, Chelsea ended the night in defeat and Barkley may have some apologising to do to his team-mates, although it must be said their actions didn’t help him and only served to put him under even more pressure.