VfL Wolfsburg – Chelsea London 2:0 (1:0)

Situation:

The UEFA womens Champions League. The Round of 16. Leg 2 after the 2:1 away win from Wolfsburg a week ago. Everything else already mentioned in the match report from last week. Especially the facts that we thought might play a different role this week as the high frequency of matches for Wolfsburg and the fact that both knew each other better now and could make some tweaks to better their chances from what they have learned in game 1.

Headline : No more close

"You had expected that Chelsea London are a good side. But really that they are that close?" was the title line from last week. But this week it was only close seen from a results' point of view. Yes, it could have come even closer. Because similar to the first game Chelsea seemed to kind of "grow" into the game and had some better spells after half time where they could have scored. But that was not much telling the true story of a game where they had their first shot on goal in overtime. Out of nothing they created two big chances with Eniola Aluko hitting the crossbar and Fran Kirby missing from out 6 yards on a slightly deflected cross from Gemma Davison – who won a 1-on-1 in the box and got past her defender the only time of the whole match. We saw that happening much more often in game 1. And there were yet two other opportunities where Ji lost her footing after a minimal touch trying to get a penalty and Aluko was sent towards goal just a little bit too far.
And that was the strange aspect of the game that Chelsea was able to create something when their good forwards were underway in the opposite box. Strange because Wolfsburg defended that not well enough. And strange because Chelsea didnt try enough to launch them more often. Without Ji in good form the other three seemed disconnected most of the time. Davison mostly far right – and mostly staying there – probably will be hoping to show initiative the next time round. Kirby up front again seemed a little bit lost compared to her WSL performances between defenders who were better than she normally is used to play against. Let us not forget she still has only 10 or so games in the FA WSL1. Fischer and Peter each probably do have much more experience even at World Cup level than Kirby has in the domestic league. She will learn from that experience. Mainly Aluko was the one who could gain some momentum for her team here and there by beating a few Wolfsburg players in duels for the ball. And she also was responsible for the same strange sudden out-of-nowhere good chance in the first half where she got through over her left flank but her flat cross coulndt be converted in the center. But that was by far not enough.
And apart from these few scenes it was a lot of Wolfsburg dominance all over the pitch. They came out and could have been up 3:0 after 10 minutes. Chelsea left Wolfsburg every space they wanted to launch their attacks. And even when Chelsea had their better spells you felt that Wolfsburg was firmly in control of the situation and could have gone up a gear if needed. They never needed and could save a lot of energy for their upcoming away match at 1899 Hoffenheim in the Bundesliga on Sunday where they might need a better performance to win.
After their strong start was rewarded with the 1:0 after 12 minutes by a fabulous long range shot from Bernauer they could take their foot off the pedal. And they finally sealed it after 69 minutes when a shot from Popp that probably would have slightly missed the target was deflected in by the again unlucky Rafferty.
Easy going for the better individuals because Chelsea couldnt find the tactical solution to use their strengths to their best effect – the only way that match would have got possibly anywhere close. Comparing the minimal difference of the final aggregate score of Chelsea (1:4) with that of Subotica (0:4) against Wolfsburg should show how much better Subotica was able to use their resources.

Tactical View

Champions League VfL_Wolfsburg - Chelsea_London
tactical line-up
tactical line up[/caption]Chelsea didnt change their formation from the first game. That was a back line of Borges – Flaherty – Fahey – Rafferty. Bright and Chapman as holding midfielders. Aluko and Davison on the flanks with Ji in the middle. And Kirby up front. Wolfsburg with pretty much the same basic pattern (4-2-3-1) also like expected in the back line with Blässe – Peter – Fischer – Maritz. But Bernauer and Goessling again as holding midfielders. Because Hansen was fit to start up front with a second line of Dickenmann – Bachmann – Popp between Hansen and midfield.
As mentioned above there was nearly nothing to see any team did to adapt to game 1. Being in front you might understand that from Wolfsburgs point of view. A similar pattern of play developed. Wolfsburg mainly threatening with their stronger players trying to pass Chelseas defenders in 1-on-1 situations. Especially Hansen seemed a threat but also seemed to tire down very much because you saw her success rate dropping steadily the longer the game went on.
And Chelsea never took control of the game despite they looked as in game 1 coming closer to be on level after half time where they got their chances as mentioned above. At least something because Wolfsburg still kind of controlled the midfield without pushing too much forward with the comfortable lead.

Misses:
Unfortunately we couldnt recognize a lot of things Chelsea London had learned from game 1. Again they seemed to be stunned for the second time in a week that this was not a weekend picnic where they could allow to settle down slowly. 100% is needed immediately after the first whistle is blown.
Even more stunning was the fact how much space they left Wolfsburgs attack. Especially on the left wing they had much confidence in Rafferty to hold off several Wolfsburg players all alone even also allowing them every space to accelerate they needed to run at her. And that didnt get any better during the whole 90 minutes. Hasnt she got the standing in the team to demand more support from the others? She did very well (and even tried to give support up front) – given the poor tactical positioning around her.
If there have been videos available for Chelsea of what Subotica did to Wolfsburg they might have missed the base line in German saying: "Wenn Wolfsburg keinen Raum bekommt zu spielen hat man Probleme" – "When Wolfsburg isn't given the space to play they start to struggle". We would have liked to see Chelsea to disappoint VfL Wolfsburg at least like Subotica was able to. But Chelsea wasn't able to.

Resume and Prospect

With Frankfurt and also Paris Saint-Germain struggling as well in this competition as in their domestic leagues and Bayern Munich as our favorites already out it looks as if Wolfsburg will impose the biggest threat to Olympique Lyon this season. But often the teams who are good in the first half are fading away after the winter break and vice versa. So we will have to wait and see what happens there.
Chelsea however have more to do than you thought after game 1. Still their front four seemed to be good enough but they have to add quite a bit elsewhere on the pitch if they want to be able to go for the title in this competition in the near future.
Especially if they are missing their opportunities to use their strengths at its best and kind of beating them by applying the smarter tactics. Based on the better individuals Wolfsburg on average seemed more athletic and especially more ball savvy. Surely with this sort of gap it is possible to produce an upset on one leg or maybe even a round. But going the whole way seems to need quite some work to be done on the training ground. Moreover it will be interesting to see how long the FA WSL needs to go through a similar development than the Bundesliga does at the moment. AFC Sunderland already was a very nice-to-see step in the right direction. Hopefully Reading FC can produce something similar. The clubs not able to spend a lot of money have to find other ways to develop their players to a level or form teams in a way that they are able to put pressure on the "money" clubs. The top teams like Chelsea need to be under constant pressure to go forward from the smaller clubs by a challenging domestic competition as VfL Wolfsburg have now in the Bundesliga where they are very used to face opponents who give them maybe as much or more to do than Chelsea London could this time.


Player of the match: Goessling
Again more kind of a who else? than based of an overwhelming performance. All players have been pretty much on level without anybody being outstanding or weaker. Surely no player of Chelsea was outstanding. At Wolfsburg the defense had their weaknesses. From the forwards Hansen started brightly but was tiring down and lacked the one bright successful situation she had in game 1. So it was Goessling who was the most influential and dominant figure in midfield who could hardly be beaten in any duel and often secured possession when under pressure.
 


PLAYER RATINGS:

Chelsea:

Lindahl: 6.5
Solid without mastering difficulties.

Borges: 6.5
Did her job well again

Flaherty: 6
Still looked like missing the regular match period

Fahey: 6.5
Solid performance

Rafferty: 6.5
Most active but not a lucky day again

Bright: 6
Strong fight but please improve agility

Chapman: 6
Solid in defense

Davison: 6
One scene in 90 mins was not enough

Aluko: 7
Again a lot of running and threatening

Kirby: 6
Needed a little to adapt her style to better opposition than usual

Ji: 6
Not as sharp as a week ago


VfL Wolfsburg:

Frohms: 6.5
Nearly nothing to do.

Blässe: 6.5
Chelsea played her into a good performance but still too many losses

Fischer: 6.5
Again a solid performance

Peter: 6.5
Solid worker

Maritz: 6
Improved in stopping Davison but not in support for the offense

Bernauer: 6.5
Solid and a wonderful goal

Goessling: 7
Dominant in midfield where the competition was not that difficult.

Dickenmann: 6
More controlling the game than attacking

Popp: 6
Her usual battling style with not much effect

Hansen: 6.5
Difficult to control at the beginning but not in the second half

Bachmann: 6
Her usual style trying to run with the ball


Every comment is very much appreciated !

 

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