Chelsea didn't play as a team, laments Sarri

Leicester City's Jamie Vardy scoring the only goal in their English Premier League match against Chelsea on Saturday, the Blues' first home loss of the season.
Leicester City's Jamie Vardy scoring the only goal in their English Premier League match against Chelsea on Saturday, the Blues' first home loss of the season.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Much has been said of Chelsea's lack of a clinical forward but manager Maurizio Sarri said that was not the main reason the Blues fell to a shock 1-0 defeat by Leicester City in the Premier League on Saturday.

Instead, the Italian tactician was left scratching his head why his players did not react to Jamie Vardy's 51st-minute goal at Stamford Bridge which eventually condemned the Blues to their first home loss of the season .

"I was really very happy at the end of the first half - we played very well. We were dangerous, we gave the opponents nothing," said Sarri.

"After the goal, the reaction was, for me, a strange reaction, not in the right direction, not as a team, but as 11 different players.

"There was time to score, without reacting as a team shocked, as a team in mental confusion."

With Alvaro Morata fighting his way back to fitness from a knee injury and Olivier Giroud struggling for goals, Sarri deployed Belgian winger Eden Hazard up front in a "false nine" position flanked by Willian and Pedro.

Chelsea enjoyed a lot of possession but could not convert it into clear-cut chances, with Hazard missing the two chances which came his way.

In the first half, he struck Kasper Schmeichel's crossbar with a powerful drive and the Danish goalkeeper pulled off a fine save to tip another Hazard effort to safety after the break.

Giroud was thrown on for the final half an hour but the French striker could not find an equaliser for the Blues.

"I was really very happy with the team, the use of Hazard like a striker. Then, after the goal, the position of Hazard was not important," said the 59-year-old.

Chelsea, fourth in the table, have struggled to get goals from their attackers all season, with the exception of Hazard, who has eight Premier League strikes.

Morata has just five league goals in 14 appearances and is set to return from injury when Chelsea face Watford on Boxing Day, but Sarri may persist with Hazard up front.

Sarri cannot comprehend why the issue of the Blues not being able to take advantage of their possession keeps recurring and he wants a response at Watford on Wednesday.

"If I knew, I (would have) solved the problem before this match," he said. "It's difficult to understand, because we have players with long experience, so it's very difficult to understand.

"In the match, we had a bad reaction. Now it depends on our reaction in the next three days."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 24, 2018, with the headline 'Chelsea didn't play as a team, laments Sarri'. Print Edition | Subscribe