Chelsea suffered their first defeat in the Champions League under Thomas Tuchel as Federico Chiesa’s stunning strike early in the first half earned Juventus a 1-0 win that takes them to the top of Group E.
On a night where the visitors huffed and puffed in possession, a Juventus rearguard led by the ageless Leonardo Bonucci held the reigning champions of Europe at arms’ length with a goal seconds into the first half from Chiesa proving to be enough for La Vecchia Signora to make it six points from six so far in Europe.
Not until the dying minutes did Chelsea really look like getting a point in an underwhelming attacking display. Romelu Lukaku fired over from a tight angle before an unmarked Kai Havertz headed over twice in the final seven minutes, as Thomas Tuchel suffered back to back defeats for only the second time in his tenure.
Chiesa’s night to remember
A one man attack probably ought not to work, but when that man is Chiesa it can be a match winning plan. The Italian international was that good in Turin tonight.
Admittedly, he was not on his own in excelling in a significant win for the Blues. Federico Bernadeschi ran the channels endlessly. Bonucci and Matthijs De Light were dominant at the other end of the pitch. But really this was Chiesa’s night, another breakout moment for one of the stars of Italy’s Euro 2020 win.
His counters, so often carried out on his own, constantly asked questions of veteran defenders. Antonio Rudiger in particular endured a terrible night. One minute Chiesa was dropping deep and spinning to run at the defense, the next looking to chase long balls in behind.
It should not have worked. Early on Juventus looked like they needed a focal point. Instead, operating without one meant that the Chelsea defense had no reference to organize themselves against.
The Juventus opener came just because of that. Rudiger had stayed high off the kick off, only noticing the danger when Chiesa had darted down a seam to claim a through ball from Bernadeschi and after 11 seconds of the second half, Juventus led. A thundering drive beat Edouard Mendy at his near post to finish the move.
Juventus were hardly deadly in their attacks. Their best chances were aided by the sloppy passing of Mateo Kovacic early in the the first half. Twice in the space of four minutes he made clumsy decisions on the edge of the attacking third. Chiesa curled one effort wide from a tight angle, made even more difficult by strong positioning by Mendy. The hosts’ better chance was arguably before then, a loose square ball by Kovacic freeing Adrien Rabiot. All it took was a simple through ball to release Bernadeschi but he did not even come close to finding his teammate.
Bernadeschi did ultimately get his chance, a brilliant first time pass by Cuadrado off Rabiot’s long pass teeing him up at close range. He could not make the most of his opportunity, skewing wide from close range.
Chelsea attack goes nowhere
Chelsea did what they do under Tuchel in Europe. Few teams are better at keeping possession. But in Turin they did precious little with it. Once Juventus plugged the early holes Marcos Alonso kept finding down their right flank, the visitors struggled to find any real thoroughfare towards goal.
There were so many players coming to the ball but precious few looking to stretch this veteran Juventus defense by running away from the ball. Hakim Ziyech had nice touches, and plenty of them, but they rarely accelerated play for the visitors. Lukaku seems to have become over enamored by his post up game. Kai Havertz struggled to get into the game whatsoever.
It was as though Tuchel was so determined to fix the flaws of Saturday’s defeat to Manchester City, when his side lacked anyone to link midfield and the strikers, that he just created a problem elsewhere. Chelsea have used possession as a defensive weapon since day one under new management, but rarely has it seemed so ineffective on offense. The first half brought just one save for Wojciech Szczesny to make, a shanked effort from Kovacic outside the box.
Perhaps Chelsea’s travails in recent days are nothing more than the absence of their two most impressive midfielders. Few are more effective at linking parts of the team than N’Golo Kante and Mason Mount, both among the first names on Tuchel’s team sheet when fit. If Kovacic made those loose passes with his No.7 next to him he could expect to be bailed out by his fellow midfielder.
Certainly, with numbers tight, Tuchel struggled to find his customary game changing substitution. He felt something needed to be changed in midfield, yet it was Trevor Chalobah who replaced Jorginho rather than Saul, the sort of player who might have been able to drive through the lines. Ross Barkley and Ruben Loftus Cheek might have been those players in the past but it was asking a lot of fringe players to turn the tide.
In the end it took 82 minutes for Chelsea to get a really tempting shot on goal. Lukaku let the ball run across him in the box before getting right under a shot that fizzed over the bar. But ultimately, the problem is that in their last two games the Blues have created shots worth 0.21 expected goals in 98 minutes of parity. There are problems for Tuchel to address.
GOAL! — Juventus lead within seconds of the half
It took just 11 seconds of second half action. Chelsea lose the ball in midfield. Chiesa bursts across Rudiger and hits the ball high and hard. Mendy never stood a chance.