06 Dec 2021 | 07:57
This is what revenge looks like but, moreover, what can happen when the Chelsea juggernaut is able to ramp up. After a first half of near total control, when Trevoh Chalobah’s crashed finish on the half-volley represented scant reward, Thomas Tuchel could revel in how his team simply flattened Juventus to ensure their qualification to the Champions League last 16. If they win at Zenit St Petersburg next month, they will advance as seeded group winners.
Perhaps Chelsea had been stung by the manner of their 1-0 loss in Turin at the end of September. More likely, they were intent on sending out a message. They do not intend to relinquish their grip on the trophy they won last season.
The decisive blows came in quick succession before the hour mark and, at that point, Tuchel was charging on to the pitch in celebration and Juve’s players looked as if they did not know what had hit them.
Part of the answer was Reece James, the player who, in the words of his England manager, Gareth Southgate, can be “anything he wants to be.” Here, the wing-back was provider and finisher, wowing with his passing and shooting and, at all times, his strength and composure. As the second half played out and Juve’s misery deepened, James seemed to be enjoying his team’s supremacy, his supremacy. There were some impudent embellishments from him.
He was not alone. Hakim Ziyech was excellent while Callum Hudson-Odoi got the goal that the sharpness of his performance deserved. And for the icing on the cake? Look no further than Timo Werner’s stoppage-time fourth, touched home from Ziyech’s cross, the moment that condemned Juventus to their heaviest defeat in this competition. Werner had come on as a substitute for his first action since an ankle problem five weeks ago and the only blots for Tuchel were the knee injuries that forced off N’Golo Kanté and Ben Chilwell. The latter could barely put any weight on his leg as he was helped from the field.
James ignited the occasion with his goal for 2-0. He controlled a Chilwell cross which had flicked off Matthijs de Ligt before thrashing a shot back into the far corner and he was involved in the third which came minutes later.
Juventus’s heads were spinning when James touched a crossfield ball from Antonio Rüdiger back inside his standing foot and then found Ziyech, who moved it on to the substitute, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, inside the area.
Loftus-Cheek’s feet were too quick for the defenders and he teed up Hudson-Odoi. Chalobah, James, Hudson-Odoi. It was a glorious one-two-three for the Chelsea academy.
Chelsea have missed only one win since the defeat in Turin – the shock 1-1 home draw with Burnley – and this was a night when Tuchel got virtually every detail of his tactics spot on.
With Romelu Lukaku fit enough to be named only as a substitute on his return from an ankle problem (he would remain there), Werner also on the bench and Kai Havertz out with hamstring damage, Tuchel had to improvise up front. He started Christian Pulisic as the false nine to mixed results but Chelsea buzzed around him from the first whistle.
Ziyech had the licence to drift inside from the right and it was noticeable how high Kanté pushed from midfield, dominating the space that his teammate vacated before his departure on 37 minutes.
Chelsea’s tempo was slick, their pressing suffocating and, if there was an element of scruffiness about the breakthrough, it was nonetheless merited. Ziyech’s corner flicked off Adrien Rabiot and cannoned into the forearm of Rüdiger, who had jumped as part of a posse, before breaking kindly for Chalobah. Juventus wanted handball against Rüdiger but he had no time to react. Leonardo Bonucci also appealed in vain for a push on him by Jorginho and Chalobah’s finish was a beauty.
If teams are to create a chance against this miserly Chelsea defence, they had better take it and Álvaro Morata, booed on his return to Stamford Bridge, thought he had done so in the 28th minute, spinning on to Manuel Locatelli’s ball and lifting up and over the advancing Édouard Mendy. Enter Thiago Silva with a wonderful stretching clearance from in front of his goalline. It would be the only time that the visitors truly threatened. Chelsea, by contrast, created a fistful of chances, with Chilwell going close early on and James twice extending Szczesny before half-time.
Hudson-Odoi (twice) and Silva almost scored at the start of the second period and Juventus could be grateful to Szczesny, who denied Ziyech in a one-on-one near the end.