It was Man Utd away 2.0, that. After Gayle put us 1-0 up after 12 minutes, Chelsea went in at the break 2-1 up and ran out comfortable 3-1 winners in the end, with individual errors at the back costing us dearly one again.
A decent first half effort and a game we started so well in, but it shows once again that application and teamwork will only get you so far – especially against these top teams.
Gayle’s goal was the product of some really good early pressing and alertness from our front three in the opening stages, but, despite this early promise, we never looked like keeping Chelsea at bay for long.
With stars like Eden Hazard (who ran the show) and Alvaro Morata, it’s never going to be easy to contain a Chelsea side full of quality, but more individual errors cost us once again – undermining what was a really promising start to the game.
It was an interesting team selection from Rafa. I thought the system makes sense, and worked in parts, but the players filling certain key roles were highly questionable:
NUFC XI – (3-4-2-1) – Darlow – Mbemba, Lejeune – Manquillo, Diame, Merino, Ritchie – Murphy, Perez – Gayle.
Diame no longer has the legs to work in a two-man midfield. He and Merino were quite sloppy and struggled to properly protect the two centre-backs from the floating Eden Hazard. Easy to say now, but I’d have far preferred Hayden next to Merino in a game like this.
Ritchie at left-wing back just didn’t work. He had a shocker, costing us the second and third goal with some really basic errors. Usually, you’d back Ritchie to be switched on enough to play that wing-back role, but he’s left Yedlin exposed so many times recently, so it’s not like we weren’t warned on that front.
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We were partly punished for taking the lead too soon and being unable to work out how to approach the game, partly punished by the clear gulf in class across the two sides, but it was individual errors that really killed us once again today.
Another frustrating afternoon, but this isn’t the game to get annoyed about. We have two massive home games coming up now (Leicester and Everton).
Let’s look forward to the much needed return of Lascelles and Dummett, put this one behind us and hope for some big results in the weeks to come.
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