Football News

Chelsea’s defending causes them more problems as Southampton come from behind again

By Harry Edwards

Published: 21:55, 30 August 2022

With the European football calendar condensed due to the winter World Cup there was a lot of action available for fans on Tuesday night.

Both the Premier League and Serie A had a handful of fixtures including some big names, while the DFB-Pokal first round got underway alongside a host of Championship matches.

With so much going on, it can be hard to keep track, so we’ve come up with a list of key stories and moments you might have missed from across Europe.

Chelsea’s set-piece problems continue

When Raheem Sterling scored his third goal of the season, Chelsea fans may have been optimistic about their game against Southampton. Having squandered a couple of better chances, Sterling managed to beat Gavin Bazunu from inside the area while off balance – ensuring he has scored each of Chelsea’s past three goals.

But then the Blues’ main problem rear its head again: their defending, and more specifically their defending from set pieces. Romeo Lavia’s excellent equaliser from outside the area was the third goal Chelsea have conceded from a set piece this season, and their second from a corner.

The first was scored by Harry Kane, the late equaliser in the 2-2 draw between Tottenham Hotspur and Chelsea at Stamford Bridge, and the second Rodrigo’s header from Jack Harrison’s indirect free-kick in Leeds’ 3-0 win. Although Chelsea may have been happy to deal with the initial ball in from James Ward-Prowse’s corner for Lavia’s goal, the clearance was poor and the Belgian was allowed too much time and space to beautifully curl his effort past Edouard Mendy from the edge of the area.

More poor defending saw Adam Armstrong put Southampton ahead and they could keep that lead, lifting Ralph Hasenhuttl’s men up to eighth, above Chelsea. The result was also a showing of Southampton’s strength this season, with Saints winning seven points from losing positions in the Premier League so far, more than any other team.

Anthony Gordon proves his worth

Sticking Chelsea-related for a moment, the Blues have been heavily linked with a move for Anthony Gordon in recent weeks, and Everton have been holding out for a big price which has caused a lot of conversation among fans. While Gordon has been a key member of Everton’s squad and has clearly caught the eye of those at Chelsea, including Thomas Tuchel, there has been focus on his lack of end product, which the Blues really need.

Gordon seems to have taken those doubts personally, scoring two goals in his past two games. The first came in Everton’s 1-1 draw with Brentford at the weekend, with Gordon opening the scoring, and it was a similar case against Leeds on Tuesday. Unfortunately for Gordon his side couldn’t hold onto the win, but it was another showing from the Englishman that will help prove just why Everton were rejecting bids of £45m for him.

Aleksandar Mitrovic has arrived

Aleksandar Mitrovic has often come under criticism for his inability to transfer Championship form to the Premier League, and not without justification. After scoring 26 goals in the Championship in 2019/20 to help Fulham gain promotion, the Serb managed just three in the Premier League as the Cottagers went down. Last season Mitrovic broke records in the Championship, netting 43 goals, but how would he fare in the top flight?

After just five matches, Mitrovic has already beaten his 2020/21 Premier League goal tally, scoring five times with only Erling Haaland (six) managing more than the Serbian. It started with the brace against Liverpool and after being kept quiet in the goalless draw with Wolves, Mitrovic has found the net in each of his past three matches.

Brentford, Arsenal and now Brighton have all failed to keep Mitrovic from scoring, and the Serb has now found the net in three consecutive Premier League games for just the second time in his career. The goal against Brighton was an important one too, getting them off the mark in the 2-1 win, which has Fulham up to sixth in the table – also handing the Seagulls their first defeat of the season when they could have gone top.

Sheffield United thrash Reading to go top of Championship

Reading went into Tuesday as one of the Championship’s form teams, winning three consecutive matches to lift them to the top of the league after a poor start. Although they had a tough opponent in Sheffield United, fans may have been optimistic of a positive result, and certainly no one would have expected that thrashing that followed.

Sheffield United were hurt in the play-offs last season, losing to Nottingham Forest in the semi-finals, but they have started the new campaign well with four wins, two draws and just one defeat from their opening seven matches. On Tuesday Ollie McBurnie gave them an 11th-minute lead and the Blades really turned on the style in the second half, scoring another three goals including two from Anel Ahmedhodzic, to earn a 4-0 win and send them top of the Championship.

Also enjoying a comfortable win were Vincent Kompany’s Burnley who jumped up to third thanks to their 2-0 victory against Millwall which saw them have 69% possession and take 22 shots in total, something that would have previously been unheard of at Turf Moor.

Magic Mike saves point for Milan

AC Milan are still unbeaten in the start to their Serie A title defence, but Stefano Pioli’s men have Mike Maignan to thank for their goalless draw with Sassuolo. There wasn’t much for Milan to be happy about against Sassuolo, hitting the target with just two of their 11 shots and posting an xG of 0.57 compared to their opponents’ 1.13.

Sassuolo’s xG will have been boosted by the fact that, midway through the first half, they had a penalty after Giorgos Kyriakopoulos was fouled by Alexis Saelemaekers. Up stepped the reliably Domenico Berardi but his effort from the spot was well saved by Maignan. It was the ninth penalty Maignan has saved since breaking through in one of Europe’s top five leagues, from 29 faced.

While that may not seem like much, his 31% save rate is the joint-highest percentage among goalkeepers to have faced at least 25 penalties in Europe’s top five leagues since 2015/16.

Joaquin Correa’s home comforts help Inter bounce back

Inter Milan were well beaten by Lazio on Friday but they were given a good chance to bounce back immediately against Cremonese and that’s exactly what they did. It took the Nerazzurri just 12 minutes to take the lead against the recently-promoted side, with Joaquin Correa scoring the goal, continuing his good record at the San Siro.

Correa has now scored four goals in his last three home games in Serie A, having also netted against Spezia this season and a brace vs Sampdoria on the final day of the 2021/22 campaign. It was also the Argentinian’s first league start of the season, so he’ll be hoping to have made an impression on Simone Inzaghi. Thanks to their 3-1 win over Cremonese, Inter have jumped up to second in the league, one point ahead of rivals Milan, and just one behind AS Roma.

Timo Werner enjoying life back in Germany

Timo Werner did not have the best of times in England, despite winning the Champions League during his two-year stay at Chelsea. The German was meant to be the man to complete Frank Lampard’s attack after tearing Bundesliga defences apart for fun, but it just didn’t work out for him in front of goal.

In 89 games for Chelsea across all competitions, Werner scored just 23 goals and felt out of favour first with Lampard and then Thomas Tuchel, who allowed the German to leave this summer despite not having a recognised striker. But it was a good move for Werner, who is already looking like the player who Chelsea had paid £47.5m for in 2020.

Werner scored on his Leipzig return, netting in a 2-2 draw with FC Koln and then came off the bench to set up Christopher Nkunku against Wolfsburg at the weekend. And on Tuesday night he scored a first-half hat-trick to help ease RB Leipzig into the second round of the DFB-Pokal. Sure it came against fourth-tier Teutonia Ottensen but it set Leipzig up for a comfortable win, something that they will have been hoping for ahead of a busy schedule with the Champions League group stage starting next week.