Chelsea managed to turn a 1-0 halftime deficit into a 2-1 victory at Villa Park in their opening match back after the Covid break, notching up their first away win of 2020 and making a clear statement about their intention to hang on to a Champions League place for next season. But the biggest takeaway
Chelsea managed to turn a 1-0 halftime deficit into a 2-1 victory at Villa Park in their opening match back after the Covid break, notching up their first away win of 2020 and making a clear statement about their intention to hang on to a Champions League place for next season.
But the biggest takeaway of Sunday afternoon’s win against Aston Villa was confirmation that football without fans is a miserable affair.
Football supporters are as vital to this sport as players, and clubs are going to have to find a way of reintroducing the sound, colour and movement that crowds bring.
Artificial cheers tannoyed to soullessly silent stadiums are about as convincing as American presidential combovers. The problem with trying to create authentic crowd noise is that it still relies on some bloke twiddling an old Bakelite knob, and no matter how speedy his reactions, it will never be as swift as the howl from ecstatic or outraged attendees.
Chelsea, in black and orange, welcomed back N’Golo Kante, and put Olivier Giroud up front. After the tributes to coronavirus victims and a knee salute to Black Lives Matter, it was, however, an eerie silence rather than the traditional roar that followed ref Paul Tierney blowing his whistle to start proceedings.
The Blues fell behind just before the break through Kortney Hause (above), but came back strongly in the second half after Frank Lampard put on Ross Barkley and Christian Pulisic for Mateo Kovacic and Ruben Loftus-Cheek.
On the hour mark, four minutes after the switch, Pulisic stabbed the ball into the roof of the Villa net, after Cesar Azpilicueta provided the pass. Two minutes later Olivier Giroud completed the turnaround with a deflected shot, and promptly took the knee once again in celebration.
And that was that. Chelsea held on for the three points.
The only real positive about the new football regime, in this reporter’s humble opinion, is the benefit of having a nine-sub bench, massively multiplying every manager’s options to change and influence a game. Let’s hope that is preserved, even when everything else returns to normal.
It’s a great chance to include more youth team and second team players in the action, and it should be here to stay. The automatic drinks breaks, on the other hand, simply interrupt the rhythm of the match, and should be reserved for when the mercury reaches a certain agreed level.
Chelsea: Arrizabalaga; Apilicueta, Rudiger, Christensen, Alonso; Loftus-Cheek, Kante, Kovacic; William, Giroud, Mount. Subs: Barkley, Abraham, Pedro, Caballero, Zouma, Pulisic, James, Emerson, Gilmour