John Terry was back captaining the side, but it made little difference as we have apparently started to believe the press that we've turned into 'The New Barcelona'. And consequently expect to tiki-taka our way past teams, rather than putting in a solid shift and respecting our opponents. Especially when we're away from home in Europe.
The match went pear shaped right from the start, when Alex Teixeira pounced on a fortuitous ricochet off John Terry's arm (a penalty, if we're being honest) and gave Cech no chance, with the match barely 3 minutes old. And, had Cech not been at his best, we could've been three down before half time and had no complaints about it.
Things went from bad to worse in the second half when Hazard was caught in possession and Fernandinho (who I suspect is the illegitimate love child of Fernando Torres and Ronaldinho) doubled Shakhtar's lead with a pin-point finish.
Chelsea rallied slightly at this point, and almost pulled one back when Hazard combined well with Sturridge. But as in the first half, Shakhtar again had the lion's share of chances.
Eventually we did score one, when Oscar got on the end of a terrific low cross (well dummied by Hazard) from Ivanovic. But with only stoppage time remaining, it was never going to be anything more than a consolation.
So where did it all go wrong? That much is easy. We were beaten (and well beaten at that) because our so called manager is a one trick pony. And tonight he showed supreme arrogance when he picked pretty much the exact same team he would pick if we were playing at home. And also played the exact same tactics. And I'm sorry RDM, but we didn't win the Champions League by thinking, 'If they score 2, we can score 3'. We won by defending as a team, and counter attacking when the opportunity arose. Especially when we were playing away from home.
To give you an idea of how arrogant it was for RDM to start with Hazard, Oscar and Mata up front, you only have to realize that Shakhtar are the Ukrainian champions, and are unbeaten in 11 months, which includes 21 consecutive league matches (without a loss) where they scored in every single game. Now if that doesn't suggest approaching the away tie against them with caution, I don't know what does.
This game should've been played on the counter attack. The very thing that Chelsea are historically good at. We should've expected them to try to take the game to us, and hit them hard on the counter when they did. Instead, we ponced around doing a poor man's Arsenal impression (which would make it an extremely poor man's Barcelona impression) and gave the ball away time after time. And, like Arsenal, we were flaccid where it counts: up front.
As I've stated in previous posts, we lack a really tough midfield general who can boss a game. But in lieu of that, we should've picked as defensive a formation as we could for this tie, while still having sufficient creativity on the pitch to win the game.
For my money I would've gone with a 433 formation with Cahill alongside JT at the back, NOT Luiz. Mikel, Lamps and Romeu in the middle of the park. And Bertrand, Mata and Hazard behind Torres. With Oscar, Moses, and Ramires on the bench, should we be chasing the game late on. Instead, RDM picks the same team and formation as if we were playing Norwich at home. Clever? I think not.
Make no mistake about it, getting out of this group is now going to be a struggle. But (glass half full) it could've been a lot worse, had Juventus not drawn away to Nordsjaelland.
Brian M Logan