Chelsea's Champions League campaign began with a 2-1 home defeat to Basel at Stamford Bridge and Adam Bate saw a side struggling for balance and width
By Adam Bate - Follow @GhostGoal. Last Updated: 19/09/13 6:19am
Chelsea suffered a shock home defeat to Basel in the Champions League as the Swiss side came from a goal down at the break to beat the Blues 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.
Oscar's goal on the stroke of half-time had looked to be enough for Jose Mourinho's side but Mohamed Salah equalised with 20 minutes remaining before Marco Streller completed the turnaround by heading in from a corner.
Here we use Opta data to take an in-depth look at a disappointing night for Chelsea that raised questions about their midfield mix and that need for a striker.
Chelsea v Basel starting formations
Willian came in for his Chelsea debut on the right wing, while Samuel Eto'o was a starter for the second time in five days for his home bow. "He's not the player that he was," said Jamie Redknapp of Eto'o. "I think they're a forward away." That forward does not appear to be Fernando Torres, who was left out of the squad completely.
John Terry missed out at the back with the partnership of Gary Cahill and David Luiz preferred. "I look at Cahill and I think he gets better and better every time I see him," said Redknapp. "Luiz would be the one I'd be worried about. He was awful at the weekend."
Elsewhere, Marko van Ginkel was selected for his Champions League debut in midfield alongside Frank Lampard. "Jose Mourinho has obviously been impressed with him to put him in a Champions League game like this," said Jamie Carragher. "He's alongside Frank so that will give him some experience."
Meanwhile, Basel went with a compact 4-4-2 formation with experienced striker Marco Streller a familiar figure up front. Support for the target man was expected to come from the highly-rated winger Mo Salah playing from the right flank.
Willian passes and touches on Chelsea debut
Where it was won and lost
Have Chelsea lost their midfield power?
Debutant Willian looked bright in the early stages, drifting in from the right flank. "Good movement off the ball from Willian," said Neville after one driving run. But his positioning soon became something of a problem as both he and Eden Hazard found themselves drawn into the congested midfield areas. "Willian and Hazard need to sacrifice themselves and stretch this Basel team," added Neville. "There is no space in the middle at the moment."
There may have been no space in the middle but Salah certainly found on the flanks as Basel posed an intermittent danger to the Chelsea defence on the counter-attack. His pacey runs down the right exposed the usually reliable Cole on a number of occasions in the first half and the experienced England man was surely relieved when the Egypt international changed wings to cause similar problems for Ivanovic at right-back. On either flank he was the outball for the visitors.
Jose Mourinho calls for calm
The plan of Basel and their coach Murat Yakin was clear. "It's a simple tactic," said Neville. "Get men behind the ball then counter-attack through your wide players." The Swiss side retained a tight shape and made life difficult in the centre of the pitch. Only 19.1 per cent of Chelsea's attacking-third activity in the first half came in central areas - the problem for the home side was that it was frequently Ivanovic who was the player afforded space out wide.
"Ivanovic has the space on that right side," said Neville. "He might not be the right guy to have it but he might be the guy who has to do something. He's getting no help on that right side." That was a situation created by the positioning of Willian. "He keeps coming inside," said Carragher at half-time. "Sometimes he's left and sometimes he's central but really you want him out there giving the width."
Chelsea dominated possession in the first half but only Ivanovic (2) offered width
Fellow new signing Eto'o interacted well with the attacking midfielders and helped set up Hazard for one good opportunity on the edge of the box. But question marks remain as to whether the 32-year-old forward can provide the threat in behind that he offered at his peak. His favoured movement appeared to be towards the ball. "You need a mix," pointed out Michael Ballack. "You have four players out there in the offensive roles all making the same movements."
Hazard, in particular, looked anxious to make things happen but repeatedly found himself crowded out when cutting inside from the left. "I don't think it's a dribbling night," said Neville. "There are too many players in those positions. Hazard is getting frustrated but he's playing right into Basel's hands."
David Luiz (4) had to step forward to prompt Chelsea attacks from the left of defence
But just when it seemed that Basel would hold out until the interval, Chelsea made the breakthrough in first-half stoppage time. The move started with goalkeeper Petr Cech but it was the willingness of Luiz to push forwards that proved key to creating the opportunity. Neville and Carragher had debated the merits of the Brazilian's walkabouts on Monday Night Football but here was evidence of the impetus he can give a side.
A neat pass from Luiz found Lampard in a rare pocket of space 30 yards out in a central position and Oscar made a clever run in behind down the right channel. His strike was crisp and too powerful for Yann Sommer. While Oscar provided the finish, it was Luiz with the spark. "It's nights like this where David Luiz can come into his own," said Neville. "He can get on the ball and drive forwards."
Although Basel were happy to wait for their chances, with the full-backs pushed on a little there was more space for Chelsea as the game opened up. Oscar hit a post with a superb effort before Eto'o just failed to latch onto a throughball ahead of Sommer. With Chelsea looking for the killer blow, Juan Mata came on to a noisy reception replacing Willian as Oscar switched to the right.
Unfortunately for Chelsea, Mata's arrival coincided with things going horribly wrong for the home side. Salah finally scored the goal he'd been threatening throughout when he struck a sweet left-footed shot into the far corner. "He's been their most dangerous player all evening," said Neville. "They've come out in this second half and gone toe to toe with Chelsea. You can't say they don't deserve to be level."
Mourinho's response was to remove his two midfielders - Van Ginkel and Lampard - and replace them with John Obi Mikel and Demba Ba. "They've made the change but they've become more open," said Neville. And Chelsea paid the price for their ambition. Another run from Salah won a corner from which Streller got away from Cahill and ahead of front post man Eto'o to beat Cech at his near post. The game had turned on its head. "It's not counter-attacking any more. They're outpassing them."
Chelsea resorted to pumping long diagonal balls into the Basel box in the general direction of Ba but the equaliser did not come and a Champions League campaign that began with huge optimism under Mourinho fell flat on matchday one. The defeat will surely prompt renewed debate about the balance of this squad that has been constructed. For while Mourinho can boast a plethora of probing midfielders, the problem was clear. "Salah has been the best winger on the pitch," concluded Neville. "Streller has been the best striker on the pitch. Basel have been the best team on the pitch."
Salah (22) made a number of driving runs in wide positions and eventually got his reward
"I think they played well. In the first half they defended well and we had a lot of the ball. But we couldn't create many chances. We had the ball and we played. We got into attacking positions. I think we had five or six corners in the first half but we couldn't really create chances. Then they scored their equaliser in our best moment. Then we were punished in a defensive corner. Emotionally this is not a very mature team and they reacted with some heart after that but it was not enough."
"Basel knew as the game went on they would get chances at that's exactly what happened. The finish from Salah was brilliant and it was a really well worked goal. From that point on Chelsea didn't really test Sommer at all. They kind of lost their way a little bit. The midfielders couldn't find the little pockets of space to inflict any damage to the Basel defence. The only time they did really was when Frank Lampard got in there and was able to pick out a lovely ball for Oscar. That was the only time they were able to carve open the Basel defence with intricate passing."
Oscar scored the Chelsea goal and came close to doubling the lead when he hit the crossbar but the man of the match award had to go to Salah as the Basel winger proved a real menace on the counter-attack. He gave several warning signs of the threat he could pose as he got in behind Cole early on and then scored the equaliser in the second half with a classy finish. It was even his run and cross for Streller that won the corner for the winner. It was his second goalscoring display in consecutive seasons at Stamford Bridge and the 21-year-old Egyptian has marked himself out as a player to watch.
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UEFA Champions League
Wed 18th Sep - Group F
Marseille1 - 2Arsenal
Napoli2 - 1B Dortmund
Wed 18th Sep - Group G
Austria Vienna0 - 1FC Porto
A Madrid3 - 1Zenit
Wed 18th Sep - Group H
AC Milan2 - 0Celtic
Barcelona4 - 0Ajax
Wed 18th Sep - Group E
Chelsea1 - 2Basel
Schalke3 - 0S Bucuresti
UEFA Champions League Group A
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|1||Paris St Germain||5||13|
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UEFA Champions League Group F
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UEFA Champions League Group H