After losing to Middlesbrough in the first leg of the semi-final, Chelsea has a lot of work ahead of them if they are to advance to the Carabao Cup final. After some incredibly poor defending from the Blues, Hayden Hackney gave Boro the lead in the first half, and that was plenty in the first leg.
Three changes were made by Mauricio Pochettino to the starting lineup from Saturday’s victory over Preston North End. For the match at Riverside Stadium, Thiago Silva, Noni Madueke, and Conor Gallagher were all added back to the squad.
In the northeast, Cole Palmer served as Chelsea’s false nine, and the Blues’ number twenty got involved in the action right away. Madueke did some excellent work on the right side and found his compatriot, who turned and shot quickly, but it went just too close to Boro keeper Tom Glover.
Palmer would frequently enter his own half in an attempt to get involved and collect the ball. This made it possible for players like Raheem Sterling and Madueke to run more centrally and take up space in the middle of the pitch.
In addition to his outstanding off-ball play, he nearly gave the visitors the lead at the Riverside when he intercepted a ball at the halfway point. He also ought to have done so. Palmer regained possession following a blunder from Jonny Howson, but he missed Glover’s goal with what was clearly the visitors’ best chance of the first forty-five minutes.
However, Boro’s Hackney gave them the lead before the forty-minute mark. The ball was delivered across the box following some shoddy defending by Levi Colwill, and Hackney finished deftly to get revenge on Chelsea for their subpar first half play.
Colwill has performed incredibly poorly in the last few games. Although he is playing in an unusual position for his defenders, he has fallen short on occasion when it comes to fundamental defending, as was the case at the Riverside.
At first, he was caught out of position, which is acceptable if you can quickly make up the yards. Colwill does, but his tackle of Isaiah Jones was not hard enough, allowing the Boro player to cross the ball to Hackney, who finished the job.
It raises the question of why Ian Maatsen was given permission to go on loan by the club. Due to the injuries to Marc Cucurella and Ben Chilwell, Chelsea is severely lacking in left defence. Even if the former is almost back, his history of injuries does not make for compelling reading.
The data from the first half of the season indicates that Colwill is not a left-back. He excelled as a central defender while on loan at Brighton last season, but Chelsea’s insistence on using him on the left side of the pitch seems to have stopped him from developing further.
In any case, Chelsea trailed 1-0 at the interval against an enthusiastic Riverside crowd. As one might anticipate, Palmer was the visitor with the most chances, but the 21-year-old was not playing at his peak level.
He actually had four shots, missing two “big chances” and hitting the other two. One of them was especially disheartening because Glover skied the shot that Enzo Fernandez had parried directly into his path.
Madueke had a fantastic opportunity early in the second half to tie the game. Fernandez skillfully placed a cross into the box, and although Glover was too near to it, the winger managed to get his head on it.
Getting the ball in wide areas and crossing it into the box seems to be Chelsea’s game plan in the second half. However, no one with any kind of bodily presence was present there. It made no sense why Armando Broja was seated on the bench.
However, Broja was turned to just after the hour. Chelsea, who were in dire need of a goal in the northeast, also had Mykhailo Mudryk enter the game. But even though Chelsea had a lot of possession of the ball in the second half, it was not to be. We have repeatedly stated that the Blues were extremely inefficient in front of goal under Pocheettino.
Moreover, they appeared exceedingly vulnerable from a defensive standpoint. Although Boro was not particularly outstanding that evening, Chelsea’s incredibly clumsy defence at times gave the impression that they were.
In two weeks, there is a lot of work to be done on the second leg. The Blues have a chance to make amends at Stamford Bridge, which is fortunate.