Kepa Arrizabalaga was the only positive in a lacklustre Chelsea team that faced a shock 1-0 defeat to Dinamo Zagreb on Tuesday.
Chelsea could not have asked for a worse way to kick off the 2022/23 UEFA Champions League than a defeat to the widely regarded bottom feeders of Group E. But the Blues faced the ignominy of an opening-day loss after producing a listless performance that included only three shots on target, two of which came in the game’s dying embers.
The visitors started the game strongly, pushing Dinamo Zagreb back and looking to make things happen, with Raheem Sterling and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang linking up nicely. But Dinamo Zagreb broke the deadlock against the run of play by unleashing an express counter-attacking move that saw Bruno Petkovic take out half of Chelsea’s defence.
Mislav Orsic latched on to Petkovic’s layoff before ending a gut-busting run with a delicate finish to make it 1-0. Chelsea looked to get back on level terms after that, but Dinamo Zagreb continued to put the west Londoners under pressure, forcing two big saves out of Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Chelsea finally came close to scoring in the last few minutes of regulation time, but Dominik Livakovic was at hand to deny Jorginho and Hakim Ziyech from point-blank range. The result has left Chelsea at the bottom of the Group E standings, although the draw between AC Milan and Red Bull Salzburg means the damage is not as big. The Hard Tackle now runs the rule over Thomas Tuchel’s men.
Kepa Arrizabalaga: 7/10
His use of the top hand is what allows him to generate enough force to tip the ball onto the bar
— John Harrison (@Jhdharrison1) September 6, 2022
With Edouard Mendy out injured, Kepa had a glorious chance to give Tuchel some food for thought. But Mislav Orsic spoiled the Spaniard’s endeavour, although he could not have done anything to keep out the Dinamo Zagreb talisman’s effort. However, Kepa did his bit to keep Chelsea in the game, making two top-notch saves to deny Arijan Ademi and Stefan Ristovski.
Cesar Azpilicueta: 4/10
Azpilicueta made a rare start in the central defensive unit in Thiago Silva’s absence. But the Chelsea captain continued to show that age is catching up with him rapidly. The Spaniard failed to cover for Wesley Fofana or Kalidou Koulibaly for Orsic’s goal while struggling to move the ball around quickly. He unsurprisingly went off at half-time as Chelsea sought an equaliser.
Wesley Fofana: 4/10
Fofana took up the sweeper role in Silva’s absence, but he failed to keep Chelsea organised and lost a running battle to Orsic. The Dinamo Zagreb talisman easily outran the Frenchman, whose UEFA Champions League debut did not go nearly as well as he would have liked.
Kalidou Koulibaly: 4/10
Koulibaly continues to take his time to stamp his authority at the back for Chelsea. And on Tuesday, he made a glaring error that cost Chelsea points. The Senegalese defender inexplicably came out of his position before losing an aerial duel to Bruno Petkovic, who set Orsic up for the winner. He needs to do much better.
That Oršić-Petković Zagreb duo is becoming European heritage at this rate.Over the years they’ve caused issues to the likes of Spurs, Villarreal, Sevilla & West Ham. Chelsea’s defensive structure was solid there but it’s just top quality link-up to play around Koulibaly & Fofana.
— Premier League Panel (@PremLeaguePanel) September 6, 2022
Reece James: 6/10
James continues to be Chelsea’s best outfield player, and he looked the likeliest candidate to make things happen in the final third. However, his crosses lacked the bite they usually carry, and he lost possession a few too many times. But James came the closest to scoring for Chelsea, only for his rasping effort to hit the woodwork.
Mason Mount: 4/10
Mount has been a shell of a player he can be at his best thus far this season. And the Englishman continued to leave a lot to be desired with his performance, although the deep role robbed him of his best qualities. He looked better when he had the chance to move higher up the pitch, but his end product needs to improve drastically.
Mateo Kovacic: 6/10
Kovacic seems to be gaining sharpness with every passing game, and he looked better on Tuesday. And while the former Dinamo Zagreb midfielder had some sloppy moments, he looked like the only Chelsea player capable of causing the hosts some damage. He will be a pivotal player for Chelsea this season.
Ben Chilwell: 5/10
Chilwell returned to the starting lineup after a solid showing against West Ham United. But the English international blew hot and cold on Tuesday, as he did not consistently threaten Dinamo Zagreb from his flank. And while he was solid enough defensively, his output should have been better.
Kai Havertz: 4/10
Havertz was the player to watch in our preview, but he showed little qualities to be the man under the spotlight. The German international should have been brimming with confidence after a match-winning performance against West Ham. But there is nothing to write home about his display apart from a few promising runs and a couple of decent crosses. He needs to step up.
Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang: 4/10
Aubameyang made his Chelsea debut on Tuesday and looked likely to make a splash in the early exchanges when he linked up beautifully with Raheem Sterling. But the former Arsenal captain became increasingly anonymous as the minutes wore on before going off for Armand Broja at the hour mark.
Raheem Sterling: 4/10
Sterling has been a talismanic figure for Chelsea in the early days of the 2022/23 season. And while he linked up nicely with Aubameyang in the early exchanges, he failed to get into scoring areas or muster even one shot. A passing rate of 76 per cent did not help matters either, with Dinamo Zagreb negating his influence superbly.
Hakim Ziyech: 4/10
Ziyech replaced Azpilicueta at half-time as Chelsea looked to push forward for an equaliser. But the Moroccan playmaker flitted in and out of the proceedings, with his final ball barely carrying a threat. He came close to scoring in the game’s dying embers, but that was as good as it got for him on Tuesday.
Jorginho pushed Chelsea forward with purpose in the final half hour while winning every duel he contested. But the Chelsea vice-captain should have done better to carve out the opportunities for his teammates apart from Mount’s late effort.
Armando Broja: 4/10
Broja got half an hour to make his mark, but he could not muster even one shot in his cameo after struggling to get involved as much as he would have liked. Nonetheless, he deserves a fair chance to make an impression.
Marc Cucurella: 4/10
Cucurella came on for Chilwell with 20 minutes left in regulation time. And while he was solid off the ball, he left a lot to be desired with his end product in the final third.
Christian Pulisic: N/A
Pulisic replaced Sterling in the final 15 minutes but struggled to get into dangerous areas.