Chelsea produced a heroic defensive display to frustrate Atletico Madrid this evening, leaving their Champions League semi-final tie evenly poised ahead of next week's return leg at Stamford Bridge.
Here are five key observations from the Blue’s performance.
Chelsea lacked attacking flair and creativity in Eden Hazard’s absence
Chelsea lacked any form of creativity in attack and this deficiency was largely down to the absence of Belgian playmaker Eden Hazard. The youngster has been nominated for both the senior and the young PFA awards in recent weeks after a remarkable domestic season for the Blues.
Without his presence in the midfield, Chelsea were forced to resort to a long ball game, with lone forward Fernando Torres left struggling to make an impression against his former side.
Mourinho’s system was crying out for Hazard’s ability to keep possession and create chances in the midfield. With the Belgian in the first team, the club would have offered substantially more going forward.
Chelsea know how to park the bus… and bore us into submission
Jose Mourinho clearly has no qualms by insisting Chelsea play for results rather than entertainment. Throughout 90 minutes were experienced the London outfit parking the proverbial bus like never before.
Spectators witnessed a spectacularly deep Chelsea defensive line, as the back four literally filled its own penalty area in order to quell the consistent threat posed by Diego Costa and Raul Garcia. At times there were as many as seven players lined up on the visitor’s penalty area.
Mourinho's favourite formation. 9-0-1. pic.twitter.com/32i5nAQT5h— Football Funnys (@FootballFunnys) April 22, 2014
This made for arguably the dullest 90 minutes of elite European football we have witnessed all season.
However, Mourinho is a tactical magician.
Mourinho knows exactly how to play the tactical game and we saw this in full effect this evening. He stationed Chelsea’s back four stationed deep and narrow, whilst the full-backs were instructed to work back and fourth down either flank.
Chelsea set out to prevent Atletico from getting behind the defence and they carried this out to perfection. The club had little of the ball, but possession statistics are unlikely to matter at full-time.
The two centre-backs, John Terry and Gary Cahill dealt with almost every single ball into the box, preventing the two Atletico strikers from having even the slightest sniff at goal. They were excellent throughout.
John Terry is, and will be, vital to any Chelsea success this season.
Atletico ran the show after John Terry’s departure, as the Chelsea defence instantly lost its sense of organization and security. The 33-year-old has been instrumental in the club’s title challenge this season and his absence in the latter stages of this match showed just how much of an impression he has on the first team.
Chelsea fans will be praying his injury isn’t too serious. If fit, Terry will be vital to the clubs chances for the second leg in London.
Chelsea could win this season’s Champions League
Against Paris Saint Germain in the quarter finals, Chelsea played in exactly the same manner – saving their best performance for the home leg - with this in mind, Atletico could be in for a shock in the return leg at Stamford Bridge. With a 0-0 away draw the club have given themselves an absolutely fantastic chance of going on to win the tie.
Mourinho’s side are just 90 minutes from another Champions League final and this is likely to fill the supporters with plenty of optimism. The 2011/12 campaign saw the Blue’s crowned Champions of Europe in similar circumstances and it would take a fool to suggest this cannot happen again.