Frank Lampard was at pains to dismiss any suggestions that Chelsea are in the midst of a defensive crisis on Monday.
Judging by this, he has a point. A clean sheet in the Champions League isn’t to be sniffed at, particularly for a Chelsea side who have been leaky at the back in recent months. This was a completely unspectacular start to Chelsea’s European season.
But for a team who conceded seven against eventual winners Bayern Munich during their previous two-legged outing in this competition, this result will come with a certain degree of fulfilment. For Lampard, this could be the starting point for a team who have clearly struggled defensively under his management.
Chelsea forward Timo Werner could not convert in the first-half after being presented with a good chance against Sevilla
Chelsea summer signing Edouard Mendy started for the Blues and made a superb save to deny the visitors in the first-half
Kai Havertz tries to advance with the ball while under pressure from Sevilla’s Nemanja Gudelj in the first-half at the Bridge
Blues midfielder Jorginho battles for the ball with Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitic, who returned to the club in the summer from Barca
Summer signing Hakim Ziyech was introduced in the second-half but could not create a goal in the closing stages of the game
CHELSEA 0-0 SEVILLA – MATCH FACTS
Chelsea: Mendy, James, Thiago Silva, Zouma, Chilwell, Jorginho (Kovacic 65), Kante, Pulisic, Havertz, Mount (Ziyech 62), Werner (Abraham 90+1)
Subs not used: Arrizabalaga, Rudiger, Christensen, Caballero, Tomori, Giroud, Hudson-Odoi, Azpilicueta, Emerson Palmieri
Bookings: Chilwell, Jorginho, Mount
Manager: Frank Lampard
Sevilla: Bounou, Jesus Navas, Sergi Gomez (Jordan 33), Diego Carlos, Acuna, Rakitic (Vazquez 80), Fernando (Torres 58), Gudelj, Suso, de Jong (En-Nesyri 80), Ocampos.
Subs not used: Vaclik, Rekik, Munir, Rodriguez, Escudero, Carlos Fernandez.
Manager: Julen Lopetegui
Referee: Davide Massa (Italy)
Indeed, when the Blues boss reviews the video of this draw, he’ll be most heartened by the way thy withstood a difficult opening 45 minutes against a well-oiled Sevilla side, who kept the ball for fun.
Chelsea stood firm when in recent weeks they have buckled. That will mean the world to the their manager this morning.
Lampard, having delivered a thinly-veiled dig at Kepa Arrizabalaga in his pre-match Press conference, did nothing to help repair his beleaguered goalkeeper’s shot confidence.
He was dropped and replaced by Edouard Mendy, who’d trained just twice ahead of last night’s clash after recovering from a thigh injury.
It’s clear Lampard is pinning his hopes on Mendy solving a problem that’s been bugging him for almost 12 months, the Senegalese evidently Chelsea’s new No 1.
The return of Thiago Silva — with all his Champions League pedigree — into the Blues’ back four another calculated selection decision from Lampard.
The Brazilian reached the final with Paris Saint-Germain last season so if anyone knows how to negotiate the early stages of this competition then it’s Silva.
Yet, Chelsea struggled for rhythm during a largely uneventful first half. Sevilla were fluent, entirely comfortable in possession.
The Blues in contrast were hurried and flat as Ivan Rakitic in his own consummate fashion controlled the midfield for Sevilla.
The fact Jorginho picked up an early booking didn’t help Chelsea’s cause yet for all their possession, Sevilla had nothing tangible to show for their impressive opening — though a Sergi Gomez header from Suso’s free-kick forced Mendy into a good save.
Chelsea’s first effort of real note arrived in the 31st minute when Timo Werner’s stabbed effort was easily held by Yassine Bounou.
It was almost as if Sevilla were the home side here, Lampard clearly agitated by his side’s failure to gain a semblance of control.
Mason Mount entered the book towards the end of the first half as Chelsea’s difficulties continued.
But despite their hardships, Lampard would have been quietly satisfied with his side’s first-half. If not with the overall performance, then certainly with their resilience in defence — not an assertion that’s been levelled at the Blues’ rearguard with any regularity in recent months.
Werner attempts to get a shot off on the edge of the box while under pressure from three Sevilla defenders in the first period
Havertz started and was influential on his Champions League debut for Chelsea on Tuesday night in the group-stages
Sevilla ended the first-half with 56 per cent possession but their concerns were clear — keeping Werner, Kai Havertz and Christian Pulisic quiet for the entire 90 minutes was an unlikely scenario.
Similarly, that was exactly what Lampard was pinning his hopes on. But it was Kurt Zouma who should have opened the scoring in the 48th minute, his free header from Ben Chilwell’s corner saved by Bounou. Suddenly, Chelsea had burst in life. They were purposeful, faster and dangerous — everything they weren’t in the first half.
Sevilla were retreating but they had no choice as Chelsea, finally, asserted themselves. Werner fired a vicious low curling effort that Bounou did well to hold in the 56th minute as Chelsea continued to impose themselves in the attacking third.
Of course, Lampard would not have been oblivious to the dangers of their more expansive start to the second half — his side’s defence has been breached far too often of late for it to go unnoticed.
Mendy looked composed on his European bow for the Blues, replacing under-fire keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in the starting XI
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard looks on as his side open their Champions League campaign against the LaLiga side
But this was far more inkeeping of what we expect from Chelsea under Lampard, who introduced on Hakim Ziyech in place of Mason Mount in the 62nd minute
Gradually, Sevilla regained their composure to threaten again. But Chelsea, led by Silva who was excellent on his return, were in no mood to capitulate.
This, at least defensively, was a step in the right direction. Lampard will be hoping for more of the same when his side face Manchester United this weekend.
Julen Lopetegui led Sevilla to the Europa League crown last season and they are the top seeds in Group E this season
Reece James tries to win the ball from Sevilla’s Oliver Torres in the second-half as both sides hunt for a winning goal