EPL

Tuchel happy to move on after 'exhausted' Chelsea snatch late win

By Sports Desk February 19, 2022

Thomas Tuchel admitted Chelsea must improve after looking "drained and exhausted" in their 1-0 win at Crystal Palace, but praised his team's defensive solidity following Hakim Ziyech's late winner.

Ziyech's 89th-minute strike meant the Moroccan has scored in three successive league games for the first time since doing so in the Eredivisie with Ajax in September 2019, and kept the London club within seven points of second-placed Liverpool in the Premier League table.

Chelsea were far from their best throughout the contest, however, managing just nine attempts on goal in the match, while striker Romelu Lukaku had seven touches of the ball, the lowest figure since Opta's Premier League records began in 2003-04.

Speaking after the match, Tuchel conceded that Chelsea were not at their best at Selhurst Park, before hitting out at their congested fixture list.

"Every team will have games like this, especially between December, January and February, where the conditions can create adversity", said the former Borussia Dortmund and Paris Saint-Germain boss. 

"If we had another draw, maybe we'd talk about this game longer, but when you win it you have the chance to move on and forget it.

"We won't wake up tomorrow wondering what we could do better.

"We look a bit drained and exhausted. Everyone is giving their very best, but we are struggling a little bit, so it's important to win and keep going."

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  • Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Conceicao's last-gasp heroics salvage Selecao on Ronaldo's landmark outing Portugal 2-1 Czechia: Conceicao's last-gasp heroics salvage Selecao on Ronaldo's landmark outing

    Francisco Conceicao proved the hero on his first competitive appearance for Portugal after his stoppage-time winner snatched a 2-1 victory over Czechia in their Euro 2024 opener.

    Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player in the European Championship's 64-year history to appear in six editions, but his landmark moment was overshadowed by a glimpse into Portugal's future.

    Conceicao was introduced after 90 minutes and scored just two minutes later, capitalising on a loose ball to send Portugal level on points with leaders Turkiye, who beat Georgia 3-1 earlier on Tuesday in Group F.

    Robin Hranac's unavoidable own-goal had earlier cancelled out Lukas Provod's rocketed second-half opener before Conceicao announced himself on the international stage at the Leipzig Stadium.

    Roberto Martinez's team were the only side to win every qualifying game for this tournament, with a perfect 10 wins from as many matches, and dominated the first half of their opener without reward.

    Ronaldo almost marked his landmark appearance with a goal just eight minutes in but rushed an unmarked header in uncharacteristic fashion from Rafael Leao's whipped cross.

    Bruno Fernandes angled a deflected long-range effort narrowly over as the one-way traffic persisted, before the Manchester United midfielder's teasing ball just evaded the lunging Leao.

    Fernandes was again the architect when his delicate throughball found Ronaldo, who was denied by Jindrich Stanek's fantastic stop from point-blank range.

    The Czechia goalkeeper was on hand once more before the interval, parrying away another fizzing Ronaldo strike as these two sides were the first to be goalless at half-time at Euro 2024.

    Portugal completed 368 passes in that first-half onslaught, their most on record in a single half at the European Championships since records began in 1980, and little changed after the break.

    Ronaldo tested the hands of Stanek with a dipping free-kick just before the hour, though Portugal were stunned soon after when Provod cannoned into the top-left corner from the perimeter of Diogo Costa's area.

    Yet a response swiftly followed as Stanek parried Leao's downwards back-post header against Hranac, who could only deflect into his own net to level proceedings.

    Diogo Jota had a late finish ruled out by VAR after Ronaldo was adjudged offside before his rebounded strike, though Conceicao pounced from Pedro Neto's half-cleared left-wing cross to snatch all three points.

    Substitute heroics save Ronaldo's landmark appearance

    Ronaldo already holds the record for the most appearances in European Championship history (26), though this outing marked another historic moment for the 39-year-old.

    Having featured at every Euros since his 2004 debut, Ronaldo is the first to go to six editions of the tournament, where his 14 goals make him the leading scorer in history.

    The former Manchester United attacker could not add to his tally here, and it was a familiar tale at the Euros for Ronaldo, who missed the 2016 final victory over France after his gut-wrenching injury.

    Eder stepped up as the extra-time hero on that occasion, and he was the last Portugal substitute to score at the Euros before Conceicao did so here.

    Conceicao's goal came just 111 seconds after being introduced and marks the fastest such goal since Ferran Torres for Spain against Slovakia in June 2021 (41 seconds) – what an introduction for the Porto man.

    Czech need more from Schick

    Patrik Schick scored five of Czechia's six goals at Euro 2020, becoming only the second Czech player to be the sole or joint-top scorer at a European Championship tournament – after Milan Baros at the 2004 edition (five goals).

    The forward has since lifted the Bundesliga title with Bayer Leverkusen last term, helping Xabi Alonso's side to an unbeaten league season with seven top-flight goals.

    Considering his record at the Euros and the 2023-24 trophy-winning campaign, Czechia may want more from their star striker – who was withdrawn on the hour after being cautioned and failing to manage a single shot.

    Yet with or without Schick, Czechia could have never prepared for Conceicao's late intervention. Ivan Hasek's side have now lost five straight games against Portugal and must bounce back when they face Georgia on Saturday.

  • Vertonghen confident Belgium can regain clinical edge Vertonghen confident Belgium can regain clinical edge

    Jan Vertonghen believes Belgium will be able to handle the pressure and bounce back from their first Euro 2024 defeat.

    Slovakia earned a surprise win over the Red Devils thanks to Ivan Schranz's early goal, and a wasteful Belgium were unable to salvage a point.

    Lukaku thought he had twice equalised, though both strikes were ruled out, the first for offside and the second by VAR for a handball in the build-up.

    Despite an early setback in the tournament, Vertonghen is confident his side will be able to quickly put it behind them when they face Romania next time out.

    "Obviously, the team is very disappointed after yesterday's result," Vertonghen said.

    "You always want the first game at a tournament to take the pressure away a bit, but now the pressure is probably even more and that's why we're disappointed. We're not disappointed in the way we played, or the chances we created or the way we defended.

    "[To change our style] would be a mistake in my opinion. Obviously, the easy answer is to score goals and avoid conceding any. But yeah, the mindset is key, to attack and then to win and to keep doing what we've been doing for the previous 15 matches.

    "I would be more worried if we didn't have the quality, so I'm confident we will score on Saturday."

    Belgium missed four Opta-defined big chances in this match, the first time they’d done so in a European Championship game since 1980 against Spain, with three of those falling to Lukaku.

    The striker created an xG of 0.82 from his three shots over 90 minutes, cutting a frustrated figure on the pitch.

    It is also the first time that Belgium have lost since 27 November 2022 against Morocco in the World Cup, ending a 15-game unbeaten run in all competitions (W10 D5).

  • Euro 2024 data dive: Mbappe's wait rolls on as Lukaku rues his luck Euro 2024 data dive: Mbappe's wait rolls on as Lukaku rues his luck

    France got their Euro 2024 campaign up and running with a 1-0 victory over Austria on Monday.

    That came after Slovakia had stunned Belgium by the same scoreline.

    Elsewhere, Romania were big winners against Ukraine.

    With the use of Opta data, we take a look at the standout statistics from day four at Euro 2024.

     

    Austria 0-1 France: More Euros frustration for Mbappe 

    Kylian Mbappe's quick feet did for Austria's defence in Dusseldorf, as the soon-to-be Real Madrid forward beat his man and whipped in a ball that was inadvertently turned home by Maximilian Wober.

    That proved to be the decisive moment for Les Bleus, though Mbappe could have put an entertaining contest to bed midway through the second half, only to miss when one-on-one with the Austria goalkeeper, from a chance that registered a 0.6 expected goals (xG) value.

    Mbappe remains without a goal from a total of 18 shots at the European Championships, while he has registered 12 goals from 39 shots at World Cups, and to compound his frustration, he appeared to suffer a broken nose in a challenge with Kevin Danso late on.

    France got over the line, though. Their coach Didier Deschamps has now won 100 matches in charge of Les Bleus, (D30 L24), 59 more than any other manager (41 wins under both Michel Hidalgo and Raymond Domenech).

    Les Bleus have won their sixth consecutive opening game of a major tournament, the longest current run of any European side.

    Austria, meanwhile, saw a run of seven games without a loss (W6 D1) come to an end. It was only a second loss in their last 17 matches (W12 D3) for Ralf Rangnick's team.

    France are the first European side at major tournaments to benefit from 10 own-goals, four more than any other side (Germany next best on six).

    Deschamps fielded France's youngest starting XI at the European Championships (27y 273d) since June 26th 2012 against Spain (27y 079 d).

    At the other end of the spectrum, veteran Olivier Giroud came on from the bench to play at his seventh major tournament.

    Romania 3-0 Ukraine: No possession, no problem

    Romania earned just their second win at the Euros (D5 L10), and they did it in style by thrashing Ukraine. In fact, this was their biggest-ever victory at a major international tournament. 

     

    The victory came with Romania recording just 29 per cent of the possession. That is the lowest share for a winning team on record (since 1980) in a single match at the European Championships.

    Nicolae Stanciu got things started with a stunner. He became the first player ever to score at the European Championships while playing for a Saudi Arabian club (Damac).

    Excluding own goals, Romania had three different goalscorers (Stanciu, Razvan Marin, Denis Dragus) for the fourth time in a match at a major tournament, also doing so against Peru (1930 World Cup), Cuba (1938 World Cup) and England (Euro 2000).

    Dennis Man, meanwhile, is the first Romanian to provide multiple assists in a major tournament match since Gheorghe Hagi against Colombia at the 1994 World Cup.

    Ukraine, on the other hand, extended their record of most games played at the Euros without keeping a single clean sheet (12). They have also failed to score in 67 per cent of their games at the competition (8/12), the highest rate of any nation to take part in more than one edition.

    Belgium 0-1 Slovakia: Bang out of Luk

    Romelu Lukaku was guilty of missing several gilt-edged chances, while also being frustrated by VAR, as Belgium suffered a shock loss to Slovakia in Group E's other match.

    Belgium missed four Opta-defined big chances in this match, the first time they’d done so in a European Championship game since 1980 against Spain (also four missed), as Slovakia held on after Ivan Schranz's goal in the seventh minute, which was the quickest goal Slovakia have scored at a major tournament.

    While Slovakia have won each of their last four competitive internationals, their best winning run in competitive games since a run of five between October 2016 and September 2017, Belgium suffered their first group stage defeat at the European Championships since going down 2-0 to Italy in 2016.

    Kevin De Bruyne did not have his best game, though still created four chances, taking his overall total of opportunities created at the Euros to 40. Since 1980, only Luis Figo (42) and Cristiano Ronaldo (41) have crafted more chances at the finals.

    Jeremy Doku was at fault for Slovakia's goal, though he did his best to make up for it going the other way, completing six dribbles to put the opposition on the back foot.

    Across the last two editions of the Euros, there have only been four instances of a player completing six or more dribbles in a match, and two of those have been Doku.

    Slovakia's defensive grit, and a little bit of luck, got them through in the end.

    They named three players in the starting XI who were 35 or older – Peter Pekarik (37), Juraj Kucka (37) and Martin Dubravka (35). Slovakia are only the second nation in European Championships history to do so, along with France in 2008. 

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