Mixed Fortunes For The English Teams In The Champion’s League

Posted: October 31, 2017 in Arsenal, Champions League, Chelsea, European Football, Football, Manchester City, Manchester United, Opinion
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Tuesday night turned out to be a night of mixed fortunes for the English clubs in the Champion’s League, as Manchester United beat Benfica to virtually assure their qualification and Chelsea were soundly beaten by Roma in a dreadful performance.

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José Mourinho resisted any temptation to play a weakened team even with Sunday’s game against Chelsea looming large in the rear-view mirror.

The idea was to ensure that qualification was guaranteed before the next game in the competition when, thanks to the win against Benfica, he will be able to rest players.

The only dispensation he made was to include Scott McTominay for his European debut, citing the fact that he only had two fit midfielders.

The first half was a yawn with only two incidents worthy of note barring the goal. One was a penalty not given to Benfica and the other was a penalty given to United. Both should have been awarded and the one that was, taken by Anthony Martial, was struck tamely and far too close to the goalkeeper who saved with ease.

By this stage of the game we were at odds with the BT commentators who continued to insist that the game was exciting and end to end. It WAS end to end but it was boring and at one stage we were guilty of reaching for the matchsticks to prop our eyes open.

The only other moment of note was when a tentative shot from Matić struck the post then went in off the goalkeepers back giving United an undeserved lead.

Good performers in the first half were McTominay, Matić, Martial and Mata. Everybody else, probably because their names don’t begin with “M”, was average or below average.

Hopefully the second half would be better.

It certainly didn’t start off any better! Mkhitaryan had replaced Lingard who was totally ineffectual in the first half and stayed in the dressing room at half-time thanks to an injury he picked up.

The Armenian was also totally ineffectual and quickly got into his recent habit of losing the ball very, very easily. He became the first United player whose name begins with “M” to not play well!

The only moment of any note was when Benfica hit the post after a misplaced pass from Eric Bailly.

Herrera then came on to replace Mata in a move which made us think that Mourinho wanted to safeguard the 1-0 rather than look for more goals.

As it turned out they got their second goal anyway. Rashford came on for Anthony Martial and his first real contribution was to get tripped in the area. Lukaku stepped up to take the penalty, was replaced by Herrera who, in turn, was replaced by Blind. Eventually the Dutchman blasted the ball into the net to give United a barely deserved two goal cushion.

The two goal win means that United now need just a point from their final two games to ensure qualification.

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Chelsea manager Antonio Conte also resisted any urge to rest players but it would have been a much easier urge to resist than that of Mourinho. Chelsea are not guaranteed to qualify just yet so, if Conte is placing any importance on the Champion’s League, (which we are pretty sure he is doing), then he had to take this game very seriously.

Also, unlike Mourinho, there was never a moment in this match where he was comfortable enough to take players off in order to give them a little break before Sunday’s game.

Within a minute of the start Roma took the lead through Stephan El Shaarawy and extended it through the same player ten minutes before half time.

Chelsea were certainly not out of the game at this stage though and should have done better with efforts from Morata, Hazard and Bakayoko.

However, 2-0 down at the break meant that they had plenty to do in the second half.

The plenty to do became a mountain to climb in the 63rd minute when Diego Perotti scored with a fierce shot from the edge of the area. The goal followed a comedy of errors from Chelsea who had gone from being threatening and likely to score in the first half to being awful and full of mistakes in the second.

In truth, Roma should have scored more goals and Perotti was guilty of missing a sitter shortly after he scored.

So a 3-0 defeat left Chelsea looking over their shoulders but they found comfort in the fact that Qarabag held Atlético Madrid to a draw in Madrid, meaning that Roma and Chelsea are still the favourites to go through.

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