Chelsea travelled to Marseilles hoping to break the winless run in the league and thereby becoming the first English club to win every game in group phases of the Champions League. But, as our recent form suggested, this was going to be no easy task, and so the case prove to be, as Olympique de Marseilles registered a 1-0 win through a late Brandao strike.
Carlo Ancelotti stated in his pre-match interview that he was looking for a performance from his team and three points weren’t that important, considering we are already assured of top place finish this sounded like a logical demand from the Italian. His team selection also justified this, with McEachran being the only youngster to start the game. His counterpart, Didier Deschamps, was facing his former side for the first time since his Monaco side knocked us out back in 2004.
Chelsea began the game like a team that had won the group and were casual in their play, but Marseilles looked like a team that had a point to prove and this was also evident in a packed Stade Vélodrome. The French side made a quick start and caught Chelsea on the back foot.
The French side made a quick start and caught Chelsea on the back foot, with Valbuena’s shot coming off the bar and then Remy went close, as the Blues were forced to sustain the early pressure. Instead, it was Chelsea who could have had the first goal when Malouda was fouled by Diawara, the Referee Vladislav Bezborov pointed to the spot, but then changed his mind after consultation with his Assistant.
As game went on Chelsea tried to improve the tempo but without much success. Gabriel Heinze put the ball into the net just after the half hour mark, but was ruled offside. As the half wore to a close, the combination of Bezborov and Diawara was again at work, this time Kalou was fouled from behind, but again the Russian Referee, who was officiating in his first game in the Champions League, didn’t gave a penalty.
With key decisions going against us, we went into half-time level with Marseilles. Those decisions could have lifted the team who were clearly second-best in the opening 45 minutes.
The second half begin with Carlo Ancelotti making a tactical change to his team, McEachran took a more advanced role and Essien reverted to a more defensive position.
Even with that change our performance didn’t improve much. Carlo Ancelotti cut an anxious figure as he saw his side again failing to live up the expectations.
Didier Drogba, who spent a season in Marseilles before joining Chelsea, was cheered throughout the game and the standing ovation he received on his substitution would have left some of the neutrals amused. John Terry was the next to be substituted as the game looked destined for a draw. Paulo Ferreira was given the Captain’s armband as first Sturridge, and then Bruma came on.
Chelsea’s quest to remain unbeaten in the group stages looked on course, up until when Brandao struck on the 81st minute, poor defending let Taiwo in from the right and his shot was deflected to Brandao, thereby giving Cech no chance.
Chelsea were dealt another blow when Bosignwa had to be taken off due to a hamstring injury as we looked for an unlikely equaliser in the dying moment of the game but to no avail, with Sturridge going the closest.
It was another uninspiring performance from the Blues, who looked short of confidence at the moment and are not being helped by key decisions going against them in this wretched run, but will buoyed by the performance of Josh McEachran, who played the whole game, and impressed everyone with his calmness and maturity, something which is not expected from players of his age.
Carlo Ancelotti was searching for answers after the Newcastle result and I’m sure he didn’t find any after this performance. He needs his key players to stand up and deliver for him in the next fortnight, but till then he can only look for positives as he seeks to improve his team’s performance. He said; “Not 100 per cent, but some things were good. The first half was good,”
“Defensively we did well, I think. We lost the possibility to counter-attack. We could have had a penalty in the first half.
“Defensively there was tactical discipline and I asked for this from my players. We didn’t have a lot of opportunities to shoot and score, we need to be more clear with the final ball.”