Deja vu for Chelsea as the biggest danger to their title hopes is laid bare in draw with Manchester United

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·5-min read
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  • Thomas Tuchel
    German association football manager and former player
  • Jadon Sancho
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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Thomas Tuchel dropped to his knees. Toni Rudiger’s volley flew into orbit.

In that moment, with virtually the last kick of an enthralling encounter between Chelsea and Manchester United, the biggest question mark hanging over the Premier League leaders’ title credentials was laid bare.

A 1-1 draw still keeps them ahead of rest – just – but this was another game when they were left wondering how they let the points slip away.

It can be filed alongside the draw with Burnley at the start of the month as another game that got away from them.

Chelsea dominated possession and chances. Yet they were left to rely on a Jorginho penalty to salvage a point after the same player had been responsible for gifting United the lead against the run of play.

How did it come to this?

The answer is simple – yet proving to be somewhat difficult for Tuchel to solve.

Chelsea have unquestionably improved as an attacking force under the German, as the 4-0 midweek win against Juventus underlined. But they can still be their own worst enemy for failing to make their superiority count.

United were given the run-around in the first half and had their backs to the wall after the break – even after Jadon Sancho fired them in front.

Yet Chelsea’s forwards repeatedly conspired to squander the promising openings their control of the game inevitably created.

A wrong decision here, a misplaced shot there – they just could not get it right in the final third.

And Rudiger’s wild effort deep into stoppage time was a classic example after slick work between Hakim Ziyech and Christian Pulisic.

With the centre back left completely unmarked in the middle of the box, he lashed Pulisic’s cross high into row Z.

Tuchel could not believe it. But, the truth is, it was all too familiar a story for the Chelsea manager.

He has seen it all too often. And he will know it presents the greatest danger to his hopes of winning the title.

You cannot let opponents off the hook – and despite Chelsea’s outstanding start to the season, they now lead Manchester City by just one point. That is how fine the margin for error is at this level – and how costly four dropped points against Burnley and now United could be.

The major positive was that they found a way back in.

At 1-0 down – curtesy of Jorginho’s horrible touch four minutes after the break that allowed Sancho to race free and score – Tuchel must have had major doubts about their ability to do so.

They continued to force United into retreat, even if the visitors remained a threat on the break, and the increasing pressure around the box forced Aaron Wan-Bissaka into a wild clearance from a corner that also caught the leg of Thiago Silva in the 69th minute.

Jorginho stepped up, sent De Gea the wrong way and Stamford Bridge wild.

On a day like this, it was the only way Chelsea were going to find the back of the net.

They had totally dominated the first half against a United side without Cristiano Ronaldo – and without much ambition either.

Caretaker manager Michael Carrick had set up not to lose and it made for dour first 45 minutes, in which Chelsea were set the challenge of breaking them down such deep-lying opponents.

Callum Hudson-Odoi might have put Chelsea ahead early on after some slick play in the box when forcing a save from De Gea on the angle.

It was a decent effort - but if he had looked up, he would have seen Timo Werner waiting in the centre for an open shot at goal.

It was typical of much of the home side’s forward play, with too many bright moves breaking down because of poor quality in the final third.

Rudiger’s 30-yard effort struck the bar and Hudson-Odoi had De Gea stretching again, but United went into the break believing their game-plan was working.

And when they took the lead four minutes into the second half, it was the perfect sucker punch, totally against the run of play.

What it lacked in beauty, it made up for in shock value.

An up-and-under clearance from Bruno Fernandes from the edge of his own area should have been easily dealt with by Jorginho just inside his own half. But the Italian totally miscued his control, allowing Sancho to seize upon it with the freedom of the pitch to run into.

He still had to beat the imposing figure of Edouard Mendy and showed unnerving composure when slipping his shot past the goalkeeper.

Werner had the chance to quickly fire Chelsea level when the ball fell invitingly for him from a corner – but lashed his shot wide.

Chelsea were then gifted the chance to get back on level terms when Wan-Bissaka caught Silva. Referee Anthony Taylor pointed to the spot and Jorginho showed courage to step up and finish – especially after his recent penalty miss for Italy.

It was Tuchel who sensed the game was there to be won – sending on Mason Mount and Pulisic to drag tired legs out of position.

Werner had another glorious opening from six yards, but allowed Wan-Bissaka to block.

That signalled the end for the German and Romelu Lukaku was called for to try to win it at the death.

How Tuchel would have wished for that final chance to fall to him, rather than Rudiger.

Read More

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