Chelsea began their 2020/21 Champions League campaign with a draw against Europa League holders Sevilla in a goalless encounter at Stamford Bridge.
Coming off the back of a dramatic 3-3 draw with Southampton on Saturday, the game was the polar opposite to that, with neither side having any notable guilt-edge chances.
The match was Chelsea's first Champions League game behind close doors at Stamford Bridge, and that lack of atmosphere was reflected by the lifeless performance from Frank Lampard's men.
Following the other game in the group ending 1-1 between Rennes and Krasnodar, all four teams are level on points going into matchday 2 in a week's time.
Story of the Match
Following criticism of their defensive play from the weekend's draw with Southampton, Frank Lampard made three changes to his line-up, with defenders Reece James and Thiago Silva replacing Cesar Azpilicueta and Andreas Christensen, while goalkeeper Edouard Mendy returned from a thigh injury suffered while on international duty to replace Kepa Arrizabalaga in goal.
Sevilla boss Julen Lopetegui decided to make four changes from their surprise 1-0 defeat to Granada on Saturday, with Marcos Acuna, Nemanja Gudelj, Lucas Ocampos and Europa League final hero Luuk De Jong replacing Sergio Escudero, Joan Jordan, Carlos Fernandez and Munir El Haddadi for the La Liga side.
And it was Sevilla who started the brightest of the two teams, with Lucas Ocampos firing a left footed shot over the crossbar, despite being narrowly offside.
The first yellow card was awarded to Jorginho after 13 minutes after a late pull back on Ocampos, and there were shouts for a second yellow for the Italian just 3 minutes later after a high boot on Ivan Rakitic, claims that were turned away by the referee. Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy faced his first action of the game from the resulting free kick, with a reflex save keeping out Sergi Gomez, who rose highest from Suso's set piece.
Chelsea's first sniff of goal came on 28 minutes, as Christian Pulisic played in Timo Werner, who lost control of the ball after taking it past Sevilla goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, however it would have been disallowed for offside anyway. Werner then had Chelsea's best chance of the first half a few minutes later, with his hooked shot from 16 yards finding itself into the hands of Bounou.
A late flurry of action at the end of the half saw good play from Marcos Acuna result in a far post cross to Suso, who couldn't convert his header on target, before Ocampos found his controlled volley saved by Mendy. Werner then fluffed an opportunity on the stroke of half times and the teams went into the break level.
Chelsea came out for the second half stronger after Christian Pulisic came over to the left hand side, where he tried to trouble Sevilla right back Jesus Navas, but Chelsea struggled to break down Sevilla's regimented defence. It was a similar story at the other end of the pitch, with the best chance of the game eventually falling to substitute Joan Jordan, whose ferocious volley narrowly sailed over the crossbar from an Ivan Rakitic corner.
With both teams struggling for deciding whether to go for all 3 points or not, chances seemed limited to crosses and set pieces. Despite both managers opting for attacking substitutions, it was a night for the defences as it ended goalless.
Chelsea Backline starting to take shape
Much has been made of Chelsea's defensive frailties under Frank Lampard, but tonight saw one of their best defensive displays of his time in charge of the club, limiting Sevilla to half chances and looking much more organised. The added presence of Edouard Mendy in goal came to the relief of many Chelsea fans and produced a fine display in between the sticks, while Thiago Silva gave a man of the match worthy performance at the back on his return to the side. It came as no surprise that all four players shortlisted for the Chelsea man of the match award came from the defence and goalkeeper positions, and it is expected that this will finally be a backline that Lampard will be happy to settle on.
Rakitic looking like a perfect Banega replacement
Returning to Sevilla in the summer for just £1.3million, Ivan Rakitic is starting to look like the perfect choice to replace their former reliable central midfielder Ever Banega. After playing a crucial role in successful Barcelona and Croatia teams in recent years, his return has come at a perfect time for Sevilla, with his experience and quality coming through in his performance against Chelsea. In a seemingly quite defensive midfield trio alongside Fernando and Nemanja Gudelj, Rakitic stood out due to the range of passing and composure on the ball, and his quality will be vital in filling the gap in the Sevilla team left by Banega.
Chelsea's issue going forward
The biggest disappointment for Chelsea fans tonight will be the lack of invention in the final third, with their attempts for goals easily halted by how isolated Timo Werner found himself in. With Christian Pulisic moved over to his unfavoured wing position on the right and the forcing of Mason Mount into the team on the left wing, despite him not looking comfortable there, it resulted in a lack of creativity in the Chelsea attack. With Hakim Ziyech and Kai Havertz still finding their feet in English football, the concern will be that the formation of chemistry amongst the forward players is not happening quickly enough, though with how talented Chelsea's forwards are, it should not take too long before they start firing.