Chelsea manager Frank Lampard and his players have come together in hopes of playing down the incident at the end of the game that led up to Ross Barkley‘s fateful missed penalty late in the 1-0 Champions League loss to Valencia on Tuesday.
Barkley appeared to take the ball off a host of other Blues players who wished to take the penalty, with Willian and Jorginho looking the most vocal. Jorginho conceded rather quickly, but Willian was more insistent in his wish to take the spot-kick, pulling up his socks in front of Barkley before finally conceding.
According to Lampard, Barkley was indeed the designated penalty taker and his assistance was within protocol. “Ross is the penalty taker,” Lampard said in the post-match press conference. “He was pre-season, scored a couple, has been when he started, and was today when he came on and he missed it, clear story.”
“I don’t know what the conversation was,” Lampard continued about the confrontation, “but Jorginho and Willian were penalty takers on the pitch, but when Ross comes on he’s the penalty taker, and he’s missed it.”
Barkley confirmed this as well after the match. “We’ve got a lot of good penalty-takers in the squad,” said Barkley. “On a sheet in the changing room, it says I’m on penalties when I’m on the pitch, otherwise it’s Jorginho.”
Willian, who was far more demonstrative on the pitch about taking the penalty, said he was disappointed to miss out, but he stands behind his teammate. “I wanted to take it but he (Barkley) was confident to take it. This is football. He missed the penalty but it could be me that missed, or Jorginho or whoever. So football is like this. But when we win, we win together, and when we lose, we lose together.”
Chelsea captain Cesar Azpilicueta claims that Willian was encouraging Ross Barkley in the run-up to the latter’s ill-fated penalty attempt in a 1-0 loss to Valencia at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday in the UEFA Champions League.
“Ross is one of the best penalty takers in the team and one who takes them. He had the confidence and he was unlucky hitting the bar. They were encouraging him to have the confidence to score. There was high expectation. They were trying to get him into the best condition. Hopefully next time it goes in.”
Chelsea boss Frank Lampard says Barkley was the penalty taker for the game, and doesn’t see the drama in it.
“Ross is a penalty taker and is when he starts games. He took it and missed it. It is a great story to say there is contention between players. If he scores it is not a story. But he took it and missed. That is it. The disappointment to all of us is that we didn’t get chance to win the game. There is no issue in the dressing room.”
Chelsea was the superior team over 90 minutes, but that can mean so little in a tournament where winning at home can be vital to the chances of advancement.
Rodrigo scored the lone goal, and Valencia will be thrilled to collect all three points in London.
Christian Pulisic was an unused sub for Chelsea, who out-attempted Valencia 22-8 on the day.
Three things we learned
1. Pulisic down the pecking order: The American star didn’t start, and wasn’t the first name called when Mason Mount was injured. Granted Pedro played a little deeper, but not a good week for the Hershey-born Pulisic
2. Wide men the danger men: Willian was the likely Man of the Match for Chelsea despite the lack of goals, and full backs Marcos Alonso and Cesar Azpilicueta were also key to the resutl.
3. Penalty drama: VAR gave Chelsea a chance to level from the spot, but Ross Barkley stepped ahead of Willian and missed the chance. The Brazilian looked aggrieved before and after the miss, and Barkley looked mighty confident right until the moment he missed his shot. Sort yourself out!
Man of the Match: Willian — No wonder he was angry to see Barkley demand the penalty, as a Willian goal would’ve been a fitting result for his clever and industrious day at the office.
Valencia keeper Jasper Cillesen made two stops early, denying Tammy Abraham to concede a corner before collecting a Marcos Alonso header on the ensuing set piece.
Would it be Christian Pulisic time when Mason Mount left the match with injury following a challenge from former Arsenal man Francis Coquelin? Nope. Pedro was called upon to fill the void.
Mason Mount comes off injured for Chelsea. Coquelin caught him with a very high challenge. Pedro comes on for Mount. #USMNT’s Christian Pulisic is on the bench, but not called upon. In theory, Pulisic is down to 4th choice winger at #CFC, plus Callum Hudson-Odoi to come back.
There’s a debate to be had there, and it’s been had plenty, but it has us thinking: Which player is the most indispensable for each of the “Big Six” in their quest for a successful PL season?
It’s going to be a defender heavy list.
Tough one, here, and we may be just a few months of consistent performances from changing the answer to Tanguy Ndombele (Yes, he looks that good).
But this one’s down to two players. It’s not a defender, as Spurs have three dynamite center backs and the drop-offs between full backs don’t hold wide-enough margins.
It’s between the Harrys (Harries? Anyway, “Between the Harries” sounds like we just started a new reality show).
Don’t be misled by Spurs’ remarkable job making up for the loss of Harry Kane to injury late last season; the big striker is still on history-making pace for his young-enough career. Since becoming a full-time starter, Kane has 162 goals in 241 matches. Would you believe he’s not 27 until next summer?
Harry Winks is the ball-possessing, clean-passing motor that so many teams crave for their midfield. He’s been a 90-plus percentage passer in every season, and has completed 94 percent this early season. Again, small sample size, but his 75 passes per game trails Nicolas Otamendi, Aymeric Laporte, Granit Xhaka, Paul Pogba, and teammate Toby Alderweireld.
It’s almost a coin flip here. We’re taking Kane, but we’re basing it on a tiebreaker of advanced statistics. Anyone making an argument for the 23-year-old Winks deserves to be heard.
This is perhaps the trickiest call of the bunch.
Anthony Martial has been far and away the most important player to the Red Devils’ early season, sputtering as it may be, but it’s far too soon to say he’s irreplaceable.
The fact of the matter, and this belies United’s plight, is that United is too thin to have a single player who would hurt the most to lose; Forced to choose one, we’ll say Maguire as he’s the most proven consistent entity of the bunch.
Another tough one, though it seems like it should be an easy one: N’Golo Kante. But he’s still finding his footing under Frank Lampard and last season wasn’t a great one as Maurizio Sarri messed with a great recipe by moving Kante from his role of pure opposition destruction.
The Gunners are very thin at center back, but the problem is that the starters aren’t stars.
So we’ll proffer one that’s a bit out of the box: Bernd Leno. The goalkeeper has been pretty darn good considering his team has offered very little resistance to attacks. His back-ups are Emiliano Martinez and Matt Macey. There’s no rule stating one of those two wouldn’t be a good starter, but they have six PL appearances between them (all Martinez).
Mohamed Salah is the straw that stirs the drink, but the Reds have a very good attackers behind him (both young and experienced) and made a run to the Champions League and a record league point total while he was not exactly thriving in form (Salah had a lone goal in an eight-match league run over February and March, and missed the incredible Barcelona comeback with a concussion).
The idea of it being Alisson Becker is interesting, but for Liverpool supporters that is probably fueled more by watching substandard keepers derail their dreams for a couple of years. For a neutral and especially for stat hounds, it’s not as big of a drop to Adrian as it seems (but it’s big).
We may want to revisit this discussion in January regarding Fabinho, but Liverpool is very deep in the midfield, too. It’s Van Dijk, and it’s not close.
It was a combination of a few things, the first obviously being the players’ quality. The PFA Team of the Year winner helped City lower its goals conceded total in his first full season at the Etihad, as City won almost every competition it entered in 2018-19.
An argument could be made for Ederson simply based on the keeper’s quality in possession and shot-stopping alone but no other position, really; City may have had to work harder for the title last season with Kevin De Bruyne injured, but it found an answer largely through Bernardo Silva. Leroy Sane looked like City’s MVP two seasons ago, but Raheem Sterling emerged as the club’s best wide man and there’s some guy named Mahrez behind him.
Laporte, it is (And if you want to really get into the nexus of this article, and why the stats say there is a big drop-off from Laporte to even John Stones, let alone a third wheel, check here. Also, I’ve learned that City fans vastly under-appreciate Otamendi).
Pulisic, 20, now heads back to the USA to lead the USMNT on international duty, as the Stars and Stripes play Mexico at MetLife Stadium next Friday and then Uruguay in St. Louis.
Below we focus on how Pulisic fared in another workmanlike display on both flanks for the Blues.
5th minute: Struggling to get involved as plenty of Chelsea’s play is coming down the left flank.
19th minute: His first real involvement in the game leads to a goal. Pulisic surges forward, Azpilicueta crosses and Abraham heads towards goal. The USMNT midfielder then put off goalkeeper Dean Henderson and Abraham slammed home to put Chelsea 1-0 up.
25th minute: Has spent a lot of time working back defensively in the right back position.
29th minute: Leads a Chelsea attack after picking the ball up in his own half.
31st minute: Wriggles free from a challenge and is then fouled by Stevens to win a free kick right on the edge of the box. A growing influence on the game.
35th minute: Starts a Chelsea attack by drifting inside with the ball. Then plays a neat pass into Barkley, but the attack breaks down on the edge of the box. Seeing more of the ball as half time approaches.
37th minute: Turns in a central area and plays a nice ball to Abraham who tees up Mateo Kovacic, but the Croatian midfielder fires just wide of the far post.
46th minute: Stevens pushes down Pulisic’s flank and crosses for Robinson to score. Sheffield United pull one back, make it 2-1.
54th minute: Tracks back and shows some nifty footwork to get away from one tackle, before being brought down to win a free kick. Struggling to impact the game as Sheffield United push players on in wide areas.
57th minute: Cut inside from the right flank and plays a few passes, which ends in Barkley’s long-range shot being saved. Pulisic was waiting to tap home a rebound.
61st minute: Willian comes on for Barkley, with Pulisic switching from the right flank to the left and Mount playing in a central role.
64th minute: Doing plenty of defensive work, once again, as he hooks a long ball forward from left back and then blocks a pass.
68th minute: Pulisic cuts in from the left and plays a clever pass over to Azpilicueta. Tidy play which is appreciated by the home fans.
69th minute: Almost latches onto a loose ball in the box, but the offside flag went up against him. He has now switched to the right flank.
70th minute: Now finds himself tracking back in the right back position, but Stevens gets the better of him and sets up a Sheffield United attack as Kepa saves Norwood’s shot. Moments later snaps into a tackle to win a throw in.
74th minute: Gets the ball in the box from Willian but just as he looks to shoot, Freeman tackles superbly. Took a little too long on the ball.
81st minute: Makes a great run on the right side of the box but Kovacic’s ball to find him is short and cut out. Wasted opportunity.
93rd minute: Loses possession centrally and then goes down in the box, but penalty appeals waved away.