Chelsea ratings as matchwinner Willian gets 8, but misfiring Alvaro Morata just a 3

Matt Jones 20/09/2018
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Chelsea are much more used to sitting at Europe’s top table as opposed to dining with the likes of PAOK – and they looked as if they didn’t really have an appetite in Greece as they laboured to an opening 1-0 Europa League victory.

Willian was their matchwinner in Thessaloniki but the scoreline could have been much greater had the Blues not been so woeful in the final third of the pitch.

It looked as if Maurizio Sarri’s side would saunter to victory when Willian just about beat Alexandros Paschalakis in the PAOK goal after only seven minutes.

But a catalogue of poor finishing as well as a lack of ideas in attack contributed to a poor spectacle thereafter.

Here we rate the Chelsea players.

CHELSEA (4-3-3)

Kepa Arrizabalaga – 6: Largely untroubled but as his side failed to kill the game off and PAOK discovered confidence, he came under pressure. Flapped badly at one cross.

Davide Zappacosta – 6: Bombed forward to try and support and supply his attackers, firing in five crosses, although none reached their target.

Antonio Rudiger – 7: A bright night. Utterly dominant in the air, winning five aerial tussles. His 113 touches were the most of any player in yellow.

Andreas Christensen – 6: Four tackles led Chelsea and made two interceptions, while he also tried to affect the game at the other end of the pitch, getting a shot off and winning a foul.

Marcos Alonso – 5: One of the marauding full-back’s quieter nights as he struggled deploy his usual ferocious attacking game from full-back. Replaced by Azpilicueta.

N’Golo Kante – 6: Passing was exemplary and made one interception. But the bustling midfielder’s usual energy seemed lacking as the hosts grew into the game.

Jorginho – 4: Kept the ball well, as his 89.8 pass success rate attests, but hardly made any mark on the game, barely recording any other stats.

Ross Barkley – 8: Ran powerfully at the home defence and slipped a precision ball through to Willian to get his side going. Five key passes and his brilliant 95.7 per cent pass success rate led the Blues.

Pedro – 6: Sniped and snaked his way across the pitch, with the hosts struggling to get a hold of him. Disappointingly shot straight at the keeper when in on goal and horrible touch late on prevented it being 2-0.

Alvaro Morata – 3: Would have banked on him burying that header. But confidence has deserted him. Later missed another, though his touch to control was sublime, his finish always difficult. When he finally scored, he was offside. Seven shots – none on target.

Willian – 8: Posed problems all night for the Greeks, and broke them down with an early goal, although it was far from crisp. Balooned over when well placed to make it 2-0. Six key passes led his side.

SUBS:

Cesar Azpilicueta – 6: Kept things neat and tidy when introduced but didn’t pull up any trees.

Cesc Fabregas – 6: Instantly added a shred of dynamism in replacing Jorginho.

Olivier Giroud – 6: Almost outshone Morata when he came on late and forced a fine stop from Paschalakis.

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Real Madrid's Casemiro tips Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Ballon D'Or

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Casemiro has picked Ronaldo as his Ballon D'Or favourite.

They might not be on the same team any more but Real Madrid midfielder Casemiro is tipping his former team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo to win the Ballon D’Or award once again this year.

The Portuguese superstar is in contention to win the award for a third year running after helping Real Madrid to a record third-consecutive Champions League title this May. He, however, faces stiff competition for the coveted prize from another Real Madrid star – Luka Modric.

The Croatian midfielder was once again a vital cog in Madrid’s Champions League run and he finished the season by leading his national team to an unprecedented runners-up finish in the FIFA World Cup held in Russia.

Modric is being tipped by many to break Ronaldo and Lionel Messi’s stronghold over the Ballon D’Or with both players winning it five times each in the last decade.

The case for the Croatian has been getting stronger, especially after he was awarded the UEFA Player of the Year award over Ronaldo recently.

Modric was recently awarded the UEFA men's Player of the Year.

Modric was recently awarded the UEFA men’s Player of the Year.

Despite that, Casemiro believes it will be the Juventus star who should walk away with the crown once again.

“Luka’s year has been spectacular. But, in my opinion, I would give it to Cristiano Ronaldo because he has been the best throughout last season,” the Brazilian told reporters after his side’s 3-0 win over Roma in their Champions League group stage opener at the Bernabeu on Wednesday.

Ronaldo and Modric were picked in three-man final shortlist for the coveted award by FIFA earlier this month. Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah is the third finalist for the award which will be announced on September 24 in a gala ceremony at London.

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Real Madrid and Man United target Mauro Icardi is quiet before screamer

Alex Rea 18/09/2018
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A stunning Mauro Icardi volley sparked a late Inter Milan comeback as the Italian side beat Tottenham 2-1 on their return to the Champions League after a six-year absence on Tuesday.

Christian Eriksen’s deflected strike gave Spurs a 53rd-minute lead at San Siro, and the visitors looked comfortable for much of the second half.

But Argentina striker Icardi hammered home a magnificent volley in the 86th minute to draw Inter level, and Matias Vecino took advantage of some slack Tottenham defending at a corner to nod in a dramatic injury-time clincher.

The win leaves Inter second in the early Group B table, behind Barcelona on goal difference after the Catalan giants thrashed PSV Eindhoven 4-0 thanks to a Lionel Messi hat-trick.

Here, we analyse the performance of rumoured Manchester United and Real Madrid target Icardi.

STATISTICS

1809 icardi focus -NEW-1

30-SECOND REPORT

Six touches for Icardi in the first-half, just one in the Tottenham box.

To his credit, the Argentine dragged Spurs centre-backs Jan Vertonghen and Davinson Sanchez out of position, But the massive quality vacuum in midfield saw his cutting runs go unnoticed.

The 25-year-old was always lurking and looked dangerous, constantly gesturing to the sidelines for more support from the middle men.

But who needs to lead the touches statistics when only one is required to make a difference.

There was a degree of irony when the coveted forward leathered a stinging equaliser from the edge of the box.

Scouting reports for Europe’s top clubs will read a lethal poacher, yet he dropped outside of the box when Inter pressed forward with time slipping to nestle an unstoppable strike into the bottom corner from full-back Kwadwo Asamoah’s cross from the left.

The San Siro eruption from that goal ultimately inspired victory, as powered up, Inter grabbed their winner just six minutes later.

A Champions League debut for the Inter captain, not a bad way to announce yourself on Europe’s biggest stage.

GOT RIGHT

Movement – It’s a prerequisite for the modern forward but it wasn’t just that his movement was impressive, it’s that he persisted in spite of Inter’s dire ability to get the ball into his feet.

Concentration – Entwined with the above feature of his game, but Icardi is the type to be quiet for 80 minutes and then score crucial goals like his equaliser. It required supreme concentration to bury his world-class strike, considering he barely touched the ball prior to it.

GOT WRONG

Involvement – An obvious thing to say but it’s not really a facet of his game to be so involved with play. However, if he’s to develop into one of the world’s most fearsome forwards and move to rumoured suitors like Manchester United and Real Madrid, then he must add more to his game.

VERDICT

Quiet and then a screamer. According to Squawka, Icardi scored 29 goals across all competitions last season and none were outside the box.

On the basis of his equaliser, perhaps he should drop deeper more often.

His overall performance owed more to the inability of the men behind him. But when you score goals like that, it doesn’t really matter what came before.

RATING: 7/10

All statistics are compiled using whoscored.com

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