An unusually resolute Chelsea found chances hard to come by with Kurt Zouma providing their best effort in a 0-0 Champions League draw with Sevilla.
Having conceded three against Southampton on Saturday to blow a commanding lead at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea looked far more assured defensively against their talented European visitors, but still needed the restored Edouard Mendy to be at his best to palm out Nemanja Gudelj’s deflected header before the break.
Chelsea managed only one shot on target in the first half but emerged resurgent from the break and could have led through Zouma’s free header from a Ben Chilwell corner, but the Frenchman directed his header straight at Yassine Bounou in the Sevilla goal.
Chilwell also found the goalkeeper’s gloves with a header while Timo Werner – who managed only 26 touches all night – still managed to twice sting the palms of the visiting goalkeeper, before Joan Jordan came close to netting a stunning 20-yard volley from a corner, which rustled the top of the net on its way through in the game’s final chance of note.
Chelsea: Mendy (7), James (8), Zouma (6), Silva (7), Chilwell (7), Jorginho (6), Kante (7), Mount (6), Havertz (5), Pulisic (7), Werner (6).
Subs: Ziyech (6), Kovacic (7), Abraham, Hudson-Odoi (n/a).
Sevilla: Bounou (7), Navas (7), Gomez (7), Carlos (6), Acuna (7), Rakitic (7), Fernando (7), Gudelj (7), Suso (6), De Jong (6), Ocampos (6).
Subs: Jordan (7), Torres (6), En-Nesyri, Vazquez (n/a).
Man of the match: Reece James
Chelsea better at the back, toothless in attack
Looking to finally address the defensive woes which have dogged them in the opening weeks of the season, Chelsea nearly shot themselves in the foot in the opening minutes when Thiago Silva’s rash run forward left Lucas Ocampos in space to fire wide inside three minutes, before the offside flag went up against the Argentine.
An early yellow card for Jorginho also left the midfielder under pressure and did not help Chelsea’s hopes of controlling the midfield battle; and with Sevilla winning the fight in the middle of the park, the Blues had only two half-chances for Werner to show for their efforts before the break.
The German forward fired an effort straight at Bounou midway through the opening period before scuffing a presentable effort wide with the last touch of the half – with Mendy easily the busier goalkeeper in the first 45 minutes.
He showcased his quick reflexes on his return to keep out a late Zouma deflection on Gudelj’s header from a free-kick, and was alert to fall on Ocampos’ curling effort after Zouma had sliced a clearance into his path.
- Chelsea made three changes from Saturday’s draw with Southampton, bringing back Edouard Mendy from injury, with Thiago Silva and Reece James also returning.
- After resting a number of players in their defeat by Granada, Sevilla recalled Luuk De Jong and Lucas Ocampos in attack, Nemanja Gudelj in midfield and Marcos Acuna at left-back.
Chelsea’s first-half offensive performance had been so out of character it was little surprise they re-emerged from the dressing room looking to play on the front foot – and within three minutes, Zouma should have nodded them ahead when found by Chilwell’s outswinger, but planted his header straight at Bounou.
With Christian Pulisic now operating on the left Chelsea looked instantly more dangerous but still found clear-cut chances at a premium. Werner turned in from that flank and made Bounou dive on his low curler, before Chilwell beat Jesus Navas to head Reece James’ cross straight at the goalkeeper.
With Sevilla now nowhere near as dominant in possession after the break, having enjoyed 58 per cent of the ball in the opening half, their two best efforts of the second period both came from corners, with Jordan’s volley whistling over the bar before De Jong’s goalbound header from another was blocked by James.
Chelsea saw out the final 20 minutes without major incident to get their Group E campaign off to an unbeaten start and with a welcome shutout at the back, but hoping they improve offensively on a night where for all the Blues’ attacking talent, they rarely looked like having enough to earn three points.
Man of the match – Reece James
Against the impressive Lucas Ocampos, who showed his quality in last season’s Europa League-winning run, Reece James stood strong and rarely found himself in trouble down Sevilla’s left, so much so that the Argentine was moved over to the other flank after half-time.
His performance was all the more impressive for the attacking outlet the young full-back gave his side; only Sevilla winger Suso completed as many crosses (6) as James, who also made more tackles (6) and clearances (3) than anyone else on the pitch.
- Chelsea have drawn five of their last eight Champions League home matches, as many as in their previous 33 games in the competition at Stamford Bridge (W23 L5). Meanwhile, this was their first goalless draw in 22 Champions League matches, last playing out a 0-0 in October 2015 (vs Dynamo Kiev).
- Chelsea have won just one of their last 10 UEFA Champions League games against Spanish opposition (D6 L3).
- Sevilla are unbeaten in the first match of their last five Champions League campaigns (W2 D3), drawing each of their last three.
- Sevilla have failed to win any of their last five away games in the group stages of the Champions League (D4 L1) – their joint-longest such run in the competition (also five games between September 2015 and September 2016 – D1 L4).
- Chelsea recorded just six shots, their fewest attempts at goal in a Champions League game since February 2015 – against Paris Saint-Germain (2).
Chelsea travel to Manchester United on Saturday live on Saturday Night Football on Sky Sports Premier League from 5pm; Kick-off at 5.30pm.
Sevilla, currently 10th in La Liga, will look to ignite their league campaign as they host 15th-placed Eibar on Saturday at 5.30pm.