Thomas Tuchel challenges Chelsea to stop coasting when ahead after Zenit draw

The Blues rounded off their Champions League Group H campaign with a galling 3-3 draw at Zenit St Petersburg.

By Press Association Published: 8 December 2021 - 9.07pm

Thomas Tuchel has challenged Chelsea to stop fixating on the scoreboard and coasting when in the lead.

The Blues rounded off their Champions League Group H campaign with a galling 3-3 draw at Zenit St Petersburg, finishing second behind Juventus.

The Stamford Bridge men had already secured their slot in the last 16, but twice squandered control in Russia – to take their goals conceded tally to six in two matches.

A frustrated Tuchel insisted his players were still taking his messages on board, but have fallen into a bad habit of relaxing once ahead in matches.

Chelsea will jump straight from Russia to hosting Leeds in the Premier League on Saturday, where Tuchel will demand standards rise quickly, especially in light of last weekend’s 3-2 defeat at West Ham.

“I won’t take it personally that you make a judgement here that my players are not listening to me, which I don’t find so nice but I leave it with you and your opinion,” said Tuchel.

“I think that we had a very good first 15 minutes and we stopped doing the things we did in the first 15 minutes.

“We were forgetting why we were the better team, because of the investment, the level of concentration, the level of physical investment was high enough to be the better team.

Chelsea head coach Thomas Tuchel (centre) talks to his players
Tuchel (centre) insisted his players were still taking his messages on board (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP)

“Once this drops, five, 10 per cent, and it does; once we start managing results and changing our behaviour from what the score is, we get punished at the moment.

“It happened to us at West Ham and it happened again today.

“The reaction was good again, that shows me that it’s not about what we can do, because we can do it.

“Suddenly when we concede two goals we can step up, we can show a reaction. But once we have the lead we give it away again, like also today.

Timo Werner (left) scores for Chelsea
Timo Werner (left) scored a brace for Chelsea (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP)

“The last six minutes again we started playing balls back, we started not attacking in the same aggression, the same hunger as before and we got immediately punished, now twice.”

Timo Werner bagged a brace and also teed up fit-again Romelu Lukaku for a tap-in, but the Blues leaked three frustrating goals on a chastening night on the road.

A host of enforced changes due to injuries and fatigue took their toll on Chelsea’s usually-rigid tactics, but Tuchel remains unsatisfied with the current state of affairs in west London.

“My analysis is very clear: our behaviour changes when we have a lead and this is something we never did and we should never do,” said Tuchel.

Magomed Ozdoev (centre) celebrates
Magomed Ozdoev (centre) netted an equaliser at the death (Dmitri Lovetsky/AP)

“We do the things that we want to do on the highest level and we push ourselves and it hurts and it has to hurt.

“You have to play through pain – physical pain – and you have to raise your level of concentration and you have to overcome adversity.

“If you change your behaviour because of the score, you allow the possibility to get punished.

“And it’s very easy; we need a higher level of sprints, a higher level of runs, a higher level of intensity and concentration.

“It’s as easy as the basics. The basics need to be pushed onto a higher level while we are in the lead.”

Winger Andrei Mostovoy hailed Zenit’s fighting spirit in the draw, but refused to award the Russians top billing for their Group H campaign, with Sergei Semak’s side now dropping into the Europa League.

“We showed our character and I think the result is very good for us,” said Mostovoy.

“Reaching the Europa League was the minimum target for us. So I would rate our Champions League as a C-plus.

“We had good moments against Juventus at home and that was really disappointing that we lost. I think third place is justified.”

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