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Match Review: Chelsea at Middlesbrough #MIDCHE

Match Review: Chelsea at Middlesbrough #MIDCHE

Match Review: Chelsea at Middlesbrough #MIDCHE

Riverside Stadium | November 20th, 2016

Top of the Table

It wasn’t as pretty as Chelsea fans are accustomed to seeing, but the Blues managed to get the job done against Middlesbrough via a 1-0 score line. It was a tense, nervous 90 minutes for Antonio Conte and his team, but they now finish the weekend first in the Premier League for the first time in what feels like forever. Let’s dive into the game and analyze how it all turned out.

(Side note: Our regular match reviewer, Barnabas, was unable to watch the match live due to unforeseen circumstances, therefore I will be substituting for him. Fear not however, as he will almost certainly be back next week)

First Half

For the first 30 minutes of the game, Chelsea looked like a completely different team than the one that faced Everton… in a bad way. Passes were not crisp, the work ethic that Conte demands wasn’t there as players were being fought of balls, and the backline wasn’t as rigid with both Gaston Ramirez and Adama Traore finding holes in it. We know that Chelsea is a dangerous team when they get their passing sequences right and that’s exactly what happened in the 28th minute when one such sequence led to a great chance for Pedro, but he was stopped by ex-Barcelona teammate Victor Valdes. If you have not seen the match or highlights of it, you need to do so just to see this save because it has save of the year potential. 

Following that chance the Blues seemed to kick into gear, controlling more possession and stringing passes together. Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses both got decent chances on goal. In the 40th minute, Chelsea won a corner and from that corner, Diego Costa pounced on a free ball in the air for his league-leading 10th goal of the season. That was the difference heading (pun intended?) into half time.

Second Half

Aside from an immediate chance for the Blues, literally 30 seconds into the half, the stanza started almost the same way the game started with Middlesbrough controlling possession and Chelsea having trouble getting something going with the ball. Gaston Ramirez had two great chances in the 51st and 55th minutes, the former a free kick, but couldn’t test Courtois on either shot. Pedro had a chance to make him regret those misses, as he had a wonderful chance in the 63rd minute but hit the bottom of the crossbar off a left footed shot. It was arguably the best chance of the game for him. Putting that away would have relieved the enormous pressure on the Blues, but alas it was not to be.

The last 25 minutes saw Middlesbrough doing their very best to keep the ball in the Chelsea half and create a goal. Aside from an 85th minute free kick by David Luiz that curled just wide to the right of Victor Valdes, all the action was at the Chelsea end. The best chance for the Smoggies came when Alvaro Negredo forced a save out of Courtois in the 78th minute. Unbelievably, that was the first shot on Thibaut’s net since the Southampton game. It turned out that would be the only decent chance of the game, as Chelsea hung on the rest of the way and achieved their 6th clean sheet in a row.

Final Thoughts

Realistically, it simply wasn’t possible for Chelsea to keep dominating opponents they way they have been. The Premier League is one of the best football leagues in the world and no game is ever easy. We won today, but it could have easily been a draw or a loss. Our next game is against the hated Spurs, so although we have all the momentum in the world from 6 straight wins, we must remain wary.

If I had to personally pick a man of the match, I would be torn between Victor Moses and David Luiz. Moses benefitted from terrible marking and often had acres of space to work with. It was he who created the corner that led to the Chelsea goal. As for Luiz, his head was everywhere today as he dominated the aerial battles in the box. He kept Negredo, Traore, and Ramirez to the outside for the most part.

Ivanovic and Oscar both came on as substitutes late in the match, showing that Conte trusts the two of them in a pressure situation late in the game. 

About the author

Navaneeth Ravichandran, @navrav28

Navaneeth is currently a university student at UBC in Vancouver, Canada. He enjoys many sports other than football, especially a passion for ice hockey, as almost every Canadian does. He has been a Blues fan since 2007 and will continue to be a loyal fan till the day he dies. Navaneeth currently writes match previews for London is Blue.

 

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