PUSHING ON

With the UEFA Super Cup match now in the past, Chelsea’s European attention turns to the Champions League group stage which is just two matches away in our forthcoming fixture schedule.

Playing last year’s winners in Prague on Friday was a good measure of how this young, developing team is shaping up for the campaign against clubs from across the continent, and although we ultimately lost on penalties, experience was gained in open play that should stand the players in good stead for meetings ahead.

Not that Basel and Steaua Bucharest are likely to pack big surprises given that we played them less than six months ago.

‘I think we’ve got an okay group,’ said Gary Cahill as he reviewed the Champions League draw.

‘There are no easy teams in any of the groups but we’ve got an okay group and we’re hoping to do well. We need to get out of the group and qualify; we know what we have to do, they’re all tough games but we’ve got the squad to get out of the group and hopefully we’ll do that.’

Making up the four teams are Schalke who we faced in the group stage in 2007. The side from Gelsenkirchen came through a qualifier this time – beating Greek side PAOK Salonika 3-2 away having drawn 1-1 in Germany.

They won their first domestic game of the season this weekend, beating Bayer Leverkusen 2-0 at home. Former Tottenham and Portsmouth midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng made his debut having signed from AC Milan. It is early days in the Bundesliga but Schalke are 13th out of 18 teams with four points from four games.

‘I am really looking forward to playing against Schalke, and I have a really good friend there in Adam Szalai,’ reported Andre Schurrle. The player mentioned, a Hungary international, played with Schurrle at Mainz and moved in the summer to his new club where he is one of the main strikers.

Schurrle joined his current team mates in believing Chelsea gave a good account of ourselves against Bayern Munich.

‘It was very intense but we defended well and had many counter-attacks but in the end it was bad luck. We had the chances in the second half to win the match.

‘We knew that Bayern Munich would play, play and play and we knew that we had a low block, and we did well in the defence and were very aggressive.’

Schurrle Chelsea

Cahill added: ‘You saw the attitudes of all the players who were trying to work hard for one another, so I’m sure we can take those positives from the game.

‘The squad’s definitely stronger. We’ve got a fantastic manager in place and everybody’s pushing in the right direction. I’d love to have seen how the game would have gone if it had stayed 11 against 11.

‘We’ve given Bayern Munich a tough test. No doubt they’re going to be one of the favourites again, but I’m sure if you ask their players they’ll say they had a tough time as well.’

LAMPARD SEES SPIRIT LEVELS

Naturally disappointed not to add to his large winners’ medal haul with a UEFA Super Cup victory on Friday evening, Frank Lampard still saw good signs for the near future.

The vice-captain was in the heart of midfield in Prague, as he has been in every game this season, and it was the performance of younger players around him that especially gave him heart.

‘They were very good, the attacking players that we’ve got,’ Lampard said, ‘and both goals showed Eden Hazard is a special talent.

‘He created the first and scored the second and the determination in the team, the way we played, we have that spirit in us which we have never lost and we have that youth. It will take a bit of time but I don’t think it will take long if we put our minds to it. I think we will be very strong very soon.

‘There is a great identity about Jose Mourinho’s teams,’ he added.

‘You see the spirit and the quality and the will to win and we always had that with him before, and I think we are going to have it again.’

With Samuel Eto’o having signed for Chelsea while the team were in the Czech Republic preparing to face Bayern Munich, many eyes were on Fernando Torres who was selected as the centre-forward to start the game.

‘He was sharp, he worked his socks off, chasing people from behind and there was a great finish and a couple of other little chances he created for himself,’ noted Lampard.

‘We need competition and we need strikers at the club. We went a bit thin on strikers last year to be honest and in a long season it is tough. We have brought in Eto’o who has great quality, we have Lukaku who had a fantastic season last year, and I feel for him after this game, but he is going to be a great striker.’

On the penalty shoot-out defeat against the European Champions who equalised in the final seconds of extra time, Lampard said it was the quality of Chelsea’s display that made the nature of the loss so difficult to stomach.

‘They had chances, but they always will do, and when you play Bayern with 10 men for a big slice of the game and you take the lead again, hit the bar and have chances, I think we played a great game.

‘With 10 men our desire to take the lead and stay in the lead was unbelievable.

‘It was a bit reminiscent of the Champions League final and the Barcelona games at times but when they are sticking balls in the box, it is hard to get out with 10 men. I don’t mind saying they deserved it by keeping going but when you get that close it is frustrating.’

UNDER-18 REPORT: EVERTON 3 CHELSEA 2

Chelsea’s Under-18 side was beaten by Everton on a frustrating Saturday afternoon in the north-west.

Despite a positive first-half display, injuries and a red card, as well as some sloppy defending, conspired to inflict a first defeat of the season on Adi Viveash’s side, who were also in midweek action away at Norwich on Tuesday.

The hosts started well and took the lead inside 15 minutes, but Chelsea responded well and equalised through Fankaty Dabo who finished off a good team move. The visitors could then have gone in front with a succession of chances, only for Everton to retake the lead on the stroke of half-time and add a third in the second half.

Dabo was then dismissed with a straight red card following a late challenge, and is expected to be suspended for three games. Chelsea once again came back though, and were given a lifeline when Kasey Palmer converted a penalty after a foul on Tammy Abraham, but Everton held on to take all three points.

‘We’ve been very strong in the first part of the season and today was disappointing for me,’ Viveash said afterwards. ‘We always look like we’re going to score goals, even when we’re having an off day, and to score two away from home is another positive.

‘They’re very young and will learn about today. You can’t concede three away and expect to get a result, but they’ve had a tough week, three games, which Everton didn’t have, and you could see we’d been to Norwich. Physically, they were a little older and stronger than us, but we have lots of positives to work on with a couple of weeks before our next game now, so we can push on.

‘It was only Jordan Houghton’s second game back, so 45 minutes was the plan for him, and Charly Muonda had a wrist injury, which was painful at the time and I hope it’s not too bad.’

Ben Killip; Ola Aina, Mukhtar Ali, Jonathan Muleba (c), Jay Da Silva (sub Fikayo Tomori); Jordan Houghton (sub Chike Kandi), Charly Musonda (sub George Brady), Kasey Palmer; Fankaty Dabo, Tammy Abraham, George Cole.

CECH: TOUGH TO TAKE

Having been denied victory with his club on a visit to his home country, Petr Cech was left to reflect on the small margins that meant it was Bayern Munich rather than Chelsea who added to their European silverware won last year.

The UEFA Super Cup may not have the prestige of those competitions contested throughout the season but prior to this week’s game in Prague, Cech made it clear he was hungry to win it to banish the memory of heavy defeat by Atletico Madrid a year earlier.

He admitted Chelsea had underperformed that night in Monaco, but that was not the case this time round in the Czech Republic.

‘The only thing that was missing was five seconds, because Bayern scored with the last kick of the game,’ Cech lamented, ‘and then they held their nerve for the penalty shoot-out.

‘But for a lot of time we were down to 10 men and it was very difficult. We had to work really hard to defend the lead and we did ever so well to go to the last seconds, and then we were a bit unlucky because the ball ricocheted from somewhere.

‘To concede in the last seconds is really hard to take but overall I think it was a great game from both teams. It was very entertaining but Bayern are the happier, and they worked hard to do it. They had heartache in 2012 in the Champions League final and this time it was the same for us.

‘Regardless of whether it was in Prague or anywhere else in the world, a victory is a victory and we don’t have the cup in our hands. Congratulations to Bayern but it is disappointing for us because we did really well.’

Chelsea had been leading 2-1 following crisp strikes from Fernando Torres and Eden Hazard, when Javi Martinez levelled it at the very end of extra time. When it came to penalties, Cech was a whisker away from keeping out Bayern’s fifth from Xherdan Shaqiri. Instead Manuel Neuer, who scored a penalty past Cech in the Munich final, saved Chelsea’s final kick by Romelu Lukaku.

‘It was really unlucky because I waited for him [Shaqiri] to shoot there and I arrived in time and got a hand to the ball, but it touched the post at the back and went in when I just needed a small touch to get it out. I didn’t manage to keep the last one out but Neuer did. Last time it was very disappointing for him and today it was very disappointing for me, but that’s football.

‘I asked him if he is shooting a penalty again, he said he wasn’t but I said you never know because if it goes to another five players then he might. He had a very good game. In the second half he made some important saves and he made one decisive penalty save and congratulations to him.’

Jose Mourinho on the eve of the game highlighted the importance of this Super Cup experience in preparing the team to take on Europe’s best in the Champions League, starting next month.

‘I think we showed that we are ready to compete with everybody,’ declared Cech, ‘because this Bayern team are the Champions League winners and they won the treble last season, so they were the favourites in this match and for this Champions League campaign we showed that we are ready to compete.’

FINAL WHISTLE VERDICT: UNDESERVED DEFEAT

Our bid to secure the UEFA Super Cup was thwarted in the cruellest of circumstances in Prague as Romelu Lukaku missed the decisive penalty in the shoot-out, leaving Bayern Munich to run out 5-4 winners after the game had ended 2-2.

Leading 2-1 going into the final minute of extra-time, the Blues appeared to be heading towards a well-earned victory, having played the additional 30 minutes a man down after Ramires was dismissed for a second bookable offence six minutes from the end of normal time.

Javier Martinez, however, pounced on a loose ball inside the Chelsea penalty area to fire home an equaliser with the last kick of the match, ensuring the game, much like the last contest between the two sides, would be decided by penalties.

It was a thrilling encounter, with outstanding individual performances all over the pitch, none more so than Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal, who made a string of stunning saves.

Jose Mourinho’s side had raced into an early lead when Fernando Torres finished brilliantly following good build-up play between Eden Hazard and Andre Schurrle, but Bayern levelled two minutes into the second half through Franck Ribery.

When Ramires saw red late in the game we faced an uphill task, but a spirited, dogged display saw us take the lead again courtesy of a wonderful Hazard strike. With the trophy seemingly in our grasp, however, we suffered a late sucker punch.

The performance itself, though, coming against the European champions, will have left Mourinho feeling very proud, but as he reflected on an eventful night, he couldn’t hide his frustration at the outcome…

‘I’m disappointed because in my opinion, and I can have an opinion, I don’t think I will be punished for having an opinion, the best team lost,’ said the Portuguese. ‘That’s football and sometimes that happens in football, sometimes the best team loses and it’s acceptable because its football.

‘When Hazard scored there were still 27 minutes to play, and 27 minutes after 90, playing with 10 men, is an eternity. It’s very difficult to play with 10, so when he scored I just wanted us to keep going. I never thought the situation was over, when Martinez scored the goal I felt it was undeserved but that’s football, no problem.’

On the sending off of Ramires
Football is 11 against 11,’ he explained. ‘Eleven against 10 is easier for the team with 11 and more difficult for the team with 10. I have a fantastic experience of playing with 10 men in UEFA matches so I could react and coach my players so that even with 10 men we could compete and find a way to score a goal. At the end of the game with everybody very tired they gave everything, and my experience of playing with 10 men gave us a hand.

‘We feel, the people who live in football and earn a life in football, we always feel a very important rule, which is the passion for football, and if you are in love with football you don’t kill a final with a second yellow card.

‘There were many yellow cards in the game the referee didn’t give. There was one situation in front of me with Dante, it was his first yellow and it wasn’t given. In pure terms, rule by rule, it was a second yellow card, but every action of the game is never done this way.

‘It is what it is and it’s nothing new for me. I was at Chelsea and I played two or three times against Barcelona with 10 men. I went to Inter and played a Champions League semi-final for one hour with 10 men against Barcelona. I played at Madrid against Barcelona in the Champions League semi-final with 10 men and I came back to Chelsea and play a Super Cup final with 10 men again. Go to analyse the actions and make your conclusions, I’m unlucky, I just am.’

Mourinho’s opposite number, Pep Guardiola, paid tribute to the performance of Petr Cech.

‘His performance spoke for itself, the same for Manuel Neuer,’ said the Bayern manager. ‘Both goalkeepers were exceptional. In the last minutes Cech made two or three unbelievable saves and we were lucky at the end when Martinez scored.’