BY PAUL LAGAN
Chelsea 0 v Valencia 1
It all went wrong for Chelsea tonight as they lost 1-0 to Spanish La Liga side Valencia in the opening group stage match of the Champions League – they even missed a penalty late on.
After an absence of a year in which the west Londoners won the Europa League, this was supposed to be the return of greatness to Stamford Bridge.
But it turned sour for Frank Lampard’s charges.
The loss of Mason Mount early on meant that the attacking guile was missing for much of the game. When they Blues went behind to a preventable goal in the second half, they thought they had earned a reprieve with a penalty.
The use of VAR and the referee’s pitch-side monitor gave the Chelsea faithful some hope.
But substitute Ross Barkley fluffed his lines by snacking the crossbar.
A decision by Lampard to change formation will be held against him as the visitors scored within seconds of the Beijing made. But the head coach brought on Olivier Giroud to bolster the attack.
It was a bold move which critically backfired.
The cliche that a mistake at this level will be punished proved to be true and it’s a lesson Lampard will have to take on board if they are to get out of a group that includes Ajax and Lille.
Tammy Abraham was denied by goalkeeper jasper Cillessen on six minutes after excellent set up play on the right. From the resultant corner Marcos Alonso got a goal-bound header, but it wasn’t powerfully enough to worry the stopper.
Mason Mount was cut down by ex-Arsenal Francis Coquelin on eight minutes and was justifiably yellow-carded by Turkish referee Cuneyt Cakir.
Mount lasted a few more minutes, hobbling round the pitch before almost in tears walking off the pitch to be replaced by Pedro.
Abraham almost scored with a glancing header from a brilliant Cesar Azpilicueta cross on 26 minutes. But the ball inched wide of the goal.
On the break the Spanish side looked increasingly dangerous and Rodrigo flashed the ball over Kepa’s goal on 30 minutes.
A wonderful mazy run by Willian as he cut through the valencia rearguard ended with a low, right-footer that forced a dive from Cillessen but the ball drifted harmlessly wide.
Four min utes from the break a wonderful defence-splatting pass by Mateo Kovacic found Willian min the Valencia box. The Brazil wide-man chested the ball down but instead of connecting purposefully, he shinned the ball over the crossbar.
The last kick of the half saw Cillessen produce a wonder save, thwarting Willian thumping effort from20 yards.
The restart saw the home side press the Spanish outfit back.
But again, the away side took advantage of a lapse of concentration allowing Kevin Gameiro a free shot on the edge of the penalty area. Thankfully he skied the effort.
An Alonso free-kick saw on 62 minutes was well sabe3d by the goalkeeper, who dived to his left and tipped the ball away from goal for a corner.
Frank Lampard opted to change formation to a 3:5:2, bringing off Kurt Zouma and bringing on Olivier Giroud on 72 minutes.
Chelsea were suckered into conceding a goal almost immediately. A free-kick by Daniel Parejo was lashed home with a swinging left-footer by Rodrigo, who raced clear of the Chelsea defence with no one tracking him.
Giroud’s first touch was a terrific shot, but it went straight to the midriff of the Valencia goalkeeper
Lampard then brought on Ross Barkley for Kovacic with 12 minutes left on the clock.
On 83 minutes there was a VAR check for a penalty after Tomori’s header was handled by Daniel Wass.
Rightly, after watching a replay on the side of the pitch the ref awarded a penalty/.
Up stepped Barkley who smacked the ball wide of the keeper but it zipped off the top of the crossbar and into the Matthew Harding stand.
A late free-kick by Alonso was parried away by Cillessen, and a header by Christensen went wide.That was the end of the action.
Teams: Chelsea, Kepa, Christensen, Jorginho, Abraham, Willian, Zouma, Kovacic, Mount, Azpilicueta, Tomori
Subs, Caballero, Barkley, Pedro, Giroud, Pulisic, Batshuayi, Guehi
Valencia, Cillessen, Gabriel, Kondogbia, Gameiro, Pareto, Cheryshev, Gaya, Coquelin, Wass, Rodrigo, Garay
Referee Cuneyt Cakir, (Turkey)