When Ben Chilwell grabbed Rodrygo’s arm, it sapped Chelsea’s ability to feel truly competitive against Real Madrid in the first leg. Of course, the Blues created some chances, but Chilwell’s departure drew one of the loudest cheers of the night, whipping the Bernabeu crowd into a frenzy..
Chelsea had struggled but were always one moment away from putting their opponents in trouble. They were forced to lose any attacking impetus and withstand pressure after the red card, a dangerous game as Marco Asensio demonstrated.
Chelsea should not have been in this situation because Marc Cucurella was too slow to respond to Rodrygo’s run before Chilwell was too eager to make the foul. Given the pressure on the Real Madrid star and the lack of a simple finish with Kepa Arrizabalaga still to beat from an angle, this was not a foregone conclusion.
As Jamie Carragher put it: “Cucurella is at fault in my opinion, but that [the sending off] is even more so,’ he said. “Don’t pull someone back and hand out a red card. You pay a goalkeeper to do his job and keep you out of trouble defensively – that’s why he’s there! Allow him to do his job..
You’re now down to 10 men, he’ll miss the second leg, and Rodrygo would have had a difficult time scoring from there.”
“Going down to 10 men could have completely taken them out of that tie,” he added. There’s still hope, but Cucurella’s defense was really poor, and then Chilwell, the second part of it, his positional play and also getting sent off – let your goalkeeper do his job!”
The question is whether this was a fluke by Chilwell or a sign of deeper mistrust in his goalkeeper. In the end, the Blues’ lack of a primary attacking threat for the second leg served little purpose..
Chelsea is looking for a new goalkeeper this summer, with both Kepa and Édouard Mendy entering the final two years of their contracts.
The Spanish goalkeeper has had some spectacular performances this season, but he has yet to win over fans after a string of errors earlier in his career and a lack of conviction in his own area. Similarly, Mendy has put in some excellent performances during his time at Stamford Bridge, but his star has faded after his first year, and no new contract talks have taken place since last summer.
If Chilwell’s decision was influenced in part by the protection in front of his goal, even on a subconscious level, it only serves to demonstrate that Chelsea should look for someone with the same aura as Thibaut Courtois. The Belgian demonstrated one-on-one dominance in making saves against Raheem Sterling and Joo Felix, and Chelsea’s defense requires that same assurance.
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