Analysis

Midfield duo reflect on a game of two halves and stress need to keep heads up

The first home game of the season might not have gone to plan but N’Golo Kante and Mateo Kovacic saw enough in our performance against the champions, especially when we had 11 men, to give them plenty of hope for the months ahead.

The midfield pair were two of our instrumental performers in the first half when we more than matched Liverpool, restricting them to very few clear-cut opportunities and looking a threat on the break ourselves. However, a red card moments before the interval proved the game’s turning point, and left us with an uphill struggle in the second period.

‘In the first half we were able to keep possession, have some situations, make them run and give them difficulty,’ noted N’Golo Kante afterwards. ‘So there were positives to take from the game.

‘We worked really well in the first half and had some situations where we could have done better with the last choice. In the second half, 10 men, they scored early and it was more difficult. They have the ability to keep the ball and make us run. We did what we could, but it’s logical in the end Liverpool won.

‘The result was a bit disappointing. We were focused on doing our best with 10 men. We have used every training session and every game to make each other better and to work together. We are getting better and we need to keep going in this way.

‘The thing is to stay together and do well for the next game and the season.’

Kovacic meanwhile was making his maiden appearance of the 2020/21 season having been suspended for the win at Brighton. He agreed with Kante about the promising first 45 minutes, and recognised how significant our reaction to defeat will be as a fresh-looking Chelsea side comes together.

‘It’s difficult to talk now but we had a good first half with some chances,’ said the Croatian.

‘We were prepared for them to come to press us. We tried to create from the back some chances, and if you don’t score, it’s frustrating.

‘They went one man up and it was difficult against a great team like them. We fought quite well in the second half. It’ll be better to analyse what we did well and what’s wrong later. We lost but we need to keep our heads up and fight in the next games.

‘It’s a new beginning for us. The season is long and we must keep fighting hard.’

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