Champions League hits and misses: Hakim Ziyech makes horror appearance as ‘soft’ Chelsea stunned by Dinamo Zagreb | Soccer News

Ziyech’s cameo sums up Chelsea’s dismal night

Chelsea players leave the pitch dejected against Dinamo Zagreb

If there was ever a moment to sum up Chelsea’s miserable defeat to Dinamo Zagreb, it was in the seventh minute of injury time, when substitute Hakim Ziyech and a bewildered Reece James were in a free-kick battle.

Just two minutes earlier, Ziyech, performing miserably after his half-time introduction, had sent a tame effort straight into the wall at almost exactly the same spot. And yet, with the game on the line, he was determined to give it another shot.

James’ plea to take him was ignored. Mason Mount too. And so Ziyech stepped up. Sure enough, he knocked him straight into the wall again. Albert Einstein said that insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Maybe he was talking about Chelsea.

Thomas Tuchel certainly felt a sense of déjà vu. “It’s the same story, as always,” he shrugged in his post-match interview.

Poor finishing and complacent defense were once again the themes. In fact, they are quickly becoming Chelsea’s trademark.

Ziyech characterized their brutality up the pitch. His introduction for Cesar Azpilicueta was meant to turn the tide of the game. Instead, it only added to Chelsea’s frustration.

Long before sloppy free-kicks, there were missed crosses, wayward shots and plenty of other unfortunate moments. By the end, Ziyech had attempted four dribbles and achieved none, losing possession 16 times and gaining it only once.

In Ziyech’s credit, he was not alone in his struggles. Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang won’t remember his debut fondly after repelling numerous goalscoring positions. Raheem Sterling was also wasted. Mont offered little.

But it was Ziyech’s performance, and the second of those free-kicks hit straight into Dinamo’s wall, which best characterized Chelsea’s night. A summer of extravagant spending, and yet the same old problems, only more pronounced.

The pressure on Tuchel is mounting.
Nick Wright

Fofana, Koulibaly caught cold

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Chelsea manager Thomas Tuchel says he is angry with himself and his team for a ‘huge underperformance’ in the 1-0 loss to Dinamo Zagreb

Thomas Tuchel’s 100th game as Chelsea manager didn’t go to plan – best described as a forgettable tirade of poor judgment and missed opportunities.

“I don’t really know where that performance came from. A lack of determination, a lack of hunger and a lack of intensity to actually do the things we need to do at the highest level.”

A scathing critique of his side’s lackluster performance against Dinamo Zagreb.

The German opted not to call out the players individually, saying ‘we lose as a team’, but privately he would be remiss not to bump into a few suspicious performers. Chelsea have spent a combined total of £100million – or slightly more – on a brand new partnership with the centre-back, but appear to be far worse off than before.

A dejected Wesley Fofana walks off the pitch after Chelsea lost the Champions League opener to Dinamo Zagreb
Chelsea new signing Wesley Fofana struggled against Dinamo Zagreb

Kalidou Koulibaly and Wesley Fofana were caught napping for Mislav Orsic’s well-taken opener – but worse than that, the latter was thoroughly beaten in a running race with a striker eight years his senior.

The situation seemed to be recoverable, but for Fofana’s slow attempt to recover it. Maybe it lacked or just lacks match sharpness. Either way, the quiet response did little to thwart Orsic’s winning push. Outmatched and beaten for pace – hardly the hallmarks of a £70million-rated defender.

Tuchel, following a recent 2-1 Premier League defeat to Southampton, criticized his side for their ‘soft’ defensiveness – and it’s clear that very little improvement has been made since then. Chelsea have conceded at least once in each of their last six games in all competitions, their longest joint run without a clean sheet since Tuchel took charge.

Defensive discipline and form weren’t all that Chelsea’s performance lacked, but they will be powerless to stop many teams this season if they continue to neglect the basics.

Back to the drawing board, one might suggest.
Laura Hunter

What happens on the hill? It’s Erling Haaland

Erling Haaland hugs Kevin De Bruyne after scoring for Man City against Sevilla
Erling Haaland kisses Kevin De Bruyne after his first goal

It’s just a monster. He’s only been on these shores for seven games, so it’s already getting hard to write anything clever or groundbreaking about his powers.

Better then to talk about facts and figures.

City’s new superstar netted twice in the Champions League Group G opener against Sevilla, taking his tally to 12 in City colours. The Norwegian striker has now scored 25 goals in just 20 Champions League appearances.

There will be more to come, too. There should have been more at Sevilla but his teammates, with the exception of De Bruyne, still seem to struggle to fire direct balls through the box or into Haaland’s feet. The transition from having to score the beautiful goal to a simpler and more robust one takes time to sink in. Take Phil Foden’s goal for example. As play developed on the left edge of the box with Joao Cancelo, Haaland made three separate runs into pockets of space in the box and demanded the cross. Each time his request was not satisfied, was he sulking? He the heck. He just kept stepping back into more space waiting for the ball. Eventually the ball found Foden and he could have slipped past Haaland, who was back in space, but he reversed a quality finish in the far corner.

When City players are working on the ball, Haaland is almost always on, who knows what’s possible. A monster season, most likely.
lewis jones

Celtic rue missed chances against European champions

Celtic fans pre-match display
Celtic supporters’ pre-match show against Real Madrid

The message of Celtic support came back with a vengeance and they started with intent against Real Madrid.

Ange Postecoglou, as promised, did not deviate from his fast attacking style, but Celtic were eventually outclassed by starter Real Madrid in their Champions League opener.

Five years after their last appearance in Europe’s top flight, Celtic scared Real in a frenetic first half by creating a series of chances, including a shot at a Callum McGregor post.

There’s no shame in losing to the 14-time champions given the class chasm between the sides, but the manager was disappointed with some of the chances Celtic passed up early in the game.

Celtic captain Callum McGregor hit the post at 0-0
Celtic captain Callum McGregor hit the post at 0-0

It’s not the games against Real that will determine the Hoops’ Champions League fate and they will travel to Warsaw next Wednesday to get their campaign back on track against Shakhtar Donetsk.
Alison Conroy

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