Chelsea storm past Juventus into last 16 but Chilwell injury takes off gloss
This is what revenge looks like but, moreover, what can happen when the Chelsea juggernaut is able to ramp up. After a first half of near total control, when Trevoh Chalobah’s crashed finish on the half-volley represented scant reward, Thomas Tuchel could revel in how his team simply flattened Juventus to move to the top of Champions League Group H.
Perhaps Chelsea had been stung by the manner of their 1-0 loss in Turin at the end of September. More likely, they were intent on sending out a message. They do not intend to relinquish their grip on the trophy that they won last season.
The decisive blows came in quick succession before the hour mark and they had Tuchel charging on to the pitch in celebration. First, the magnificent Reece James controlled a Ben Chilwell cross which had flicked off Matthijs de Ligt and thrashed a shot back into the far corner and then Callum Hudson-Odoi shot past the exposed Wojciech Szczesny after a slick build-up fired by the quick feet of the substitute, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, inside the area.
It was a night when Tuchel got every detail of his tactics right and the only blots were the injuries that saw N’Golo Kanté and Chilwell forced off. Chilwell was in a good deal of distress and could not put any weight on his leg. Timo Werner, on as a substitute, completed the rout at the very end and Stamford Bridge could rock to a delirious beat.
Chelsea’s defeat in Turin was the consequence of a strangely flat performance but how they have bounced back. Prior to kick-off here, they had won every subsequent game – apart from the 1-1 home draw with Burnley.
Tuchel has had to cope without Romelu Lukaku and Werner for much of the run and there was another curve-ball for him with Kai Havertz, who had deputised in the No9 role, ruled out through injury. With Lukaku returning to the bench and Werner named there, too, Tuchel had to improvise up front. The decision to play Christian Pulisic in the position was based on the threat that his movement could provide.
Tuchel’s starting system offered licence for Hakim Ziyech to drift inside from the right and it was noticeable how high Kanté pushed from midfield, occupying the space that Ziyech vacated. Unfortunately for Chelsea, Kanté had to go off on 37 minutes, having yet again offered the impression there was more than one of him on the pitch.
Chelsea carried the game to Juventus at the outset, their tempo slick, their pressing creating problems and, if there was an element of scruffiness about the breakthrough, it was nonetheless merited. Max Allegri was already turning the air blue, frustrated at how his Juventus players had been second to most things, when Ziyech sent over a corner.
The ball flicked off Adrien Rabiot and cannoned into the forearm of Antonio Rüdiger, who had jumped as part of a posse, before breaking kindly for Chalobah. Juventus wanted handball against Rüdiger but he had no time to react and his arm was not in an unnatural position. Leonardo Bonucci also appealed in vain for a push on him by Jorginho.
Álvaro Morata, booed on his return to Stamford Bridge, almost equalised in the 28th minute when he spun on to a lovely ball over the top from Manuel Locatelli before lifting up and over the advancing Édouard Mendy. He had not reckoned with Thiago Silva, who had read the danger and allied pace on the cover to a superb stretching clearance from in front of his goalline.
That was the sum of Juve’s threat before the interval whereas Chelsea created a fistful of openings, starting with the one that Chilwell blew in the second minute after a Kanté burst and cross. James had the pick of the rest, twice extending Szczesny – the first from a free-kick; the second after a fine touch and low blast.
Juventus had already qualified, their Champions League performances having been rather smoother than those in Serie A, where they are eighth – 11 points off the top – their battle to overcome a sticky start to the season continuing to encounter turbulence.
They could get little going here. Time and again, the blue shirts swamped the man in possession and the impression was one of no room to breathe.
Chelsea’s grip only tightened after the interval, with Hudson-Odoi dallying too long after an electric surge, Silva working Szczesny with a header following a corner – Chelsea were a threat from set pieces throughout – and Ziyech almost teeing up Hudson-Odoi.
Then came the goals that planted Juventus firmly on to the canvas and the rest of the evening was a struggle for them to shake their heads clear.
Szczesny denied Ziyech in a late one-on-one but he was powerless when the Chelsea winger crossed for Werner to tap home.