The first-ever competitive meeting between Chelsea and Sevilla will not go down as a classic although both sides are likely to view the draw as a reasonably steady start to their Champions League campaigns, with these the two favourites to top the group.
The fluidity in the Chelsea attack seen in the Premier League at the weekend was less in evidence tonight against last season’s Europa League winners, but balancing that out and after all the questioning of the defensive side of our play following the points let slip in the last game, there was a clean sheet and no errors gifting chances to the other team.
As against Southampton, Timo Werner looked the Chelsea player most likely to find the net. He had shots saved in each half and Kurt Zouma with a header had the Blues other best effort, but none of those really stretched the visitors’ goalkeeper, and it was fit-again Edouard Mendy who made the best save of the game when he kept out a deflected first-half header.
Chelsea showed more sharpness in attack early in the second half and although Sevilla had a greater share of possession throughout, we ended the game having worked the opposition keeper more. Attention in this season’s crowded Champions League will now turn to our trip to Russia in a week’s time as the next chance for three points.
After the impressive attacking part of the game in the 3-3 draw with Southampton at the weekend, the forward line and midfield remained the same but there were changes at the back, with Mendy returning from injury and Thiago Silva and Reece James back in the side.
Fast 45 but no breakthrough
The two highest-ranked sides in the group were playing each other in this opener and between us, there was little created in the opening half. Sevilla managed two shots on target that did not have the beating of Mendy, and when Timo Werner had our one, he could not beat Bono in the Andalusians’ goal.
There did look to have been a big waste of a chance by Sevilla’s Lucas Ocampos very early on when he shanked a shot wide but the offside flag went up anyway. Werner and Reece James switched play with great speed when the Blues attacked in the opening minutes and Mason Mount in the middle almost got to the ball first, just beaten by the Spaniards’ keeper.
However neither side was finding it easy to keep possession for any period of time in what was a very high-tempo match for an early group-stage European encounter. In the 14th minute Jorginho was booked for bringing down Lucas Ocampos who was heading beyond the Chelsea captain on the night into a big area of space.
Another Jorginho foul led to the first save of the game, with fit-again Mendy doing well to keep out Nemanja Gudeji’s header which took a touch off a player on the way through.
Midway through the half, Sevilla tempted fate big time with a pass across their backline that Werner was a whisker away from intercepting. It remained 0-0 but the visitors were starting to assert a grip on the game without creating chances. The Blues had yet to test Bono in the opposition goal.
Our best move of the game so far was soon to come. Kai Havertz found Mount who instantly sent the ball forward to the eager Werner. The German went past the keeper but ran out of pitch before he could shoot, and anyway, the linesman’s flag had gone up. Werner did register Chelsea’s first shot on target moments later but the save was straightforward.
Heading into the five minutes before half-time, Chelsea began to assert some control on the encounter and James at last had the opportunity to test Sevilla with his crosses, but the 0-0 score at the interval was a fair reflection of the 45 minutes just played, although there was goalmouth action at both ends shortly before the whistle. There was Chelsea concern when a cross found Suso at the far post, but he headed wide. Mendy saved a low shot and Werner scuffed one when the ball came his way.
More of the same second half
Chelsea were bright at the start of the second period. Christian Pulisic had been quiet in the first but his trickery now won a corner from which Zouma tested Bono with a powerful header. The American was popping up on the left and seeing plenty of the ball.
Werner had a shot from outside the area saved and Chilwell was left regretting heading straight at the keeper when he met a James cross.
With an hour played it was time to introduce Hakim Ziyech whose last Champions League action at Stamford Bridge had been that oh-so-memorable match against Ajax, when he was on the other side. Mateo Kovacic followed him on soon after.
There had been little in the way of dangerous attack from Sevilla since the break but substitute Joan Jorden did smash a volley over from a corner.
Neither side was settling for the draw but as the minutes ticked away, a scoreless result looked increasingly likely as neither could conjure up the required moment of quality in the attacking third.
The other game in Group E tonight finished as a draw too, with Rennes held 1-1 at home by Krasnodar.
Starting with a point
The firm footing for the rest of the group-stage campaign of defeat avoided at the start is not to be taken lightly, and it is a plus to be in that position having lost at home in the opener last season (to Valencia). That was one of only two times that has happened to Chelsea with the first game also lost in 2013, to Basel. Both of those seasons we recovered to make the group stage but not such early pressure this time.
The first of two consecutive Premier League games in the North-West (with the trip to Russia in between) takes us to Old Trafford on Saturday. Man United played away at Paris St-Germain tonight in the Champions League and won 2-1.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Mendy; James, Thiago Silva, Zouma, Chilwell; Jorginho (c) (Kovacic 64), Kante; Pulisic (Hudson-Odoi 90+1), Havertz, Mount (Ziyech 61); Werner (Abraham 90+1).
Unused subs Kepa, Caballero, Azpilicueta, Tomori, Rudiger, Christensen, Emerson, Giroud.
Booked Jorginho 14, Mount 36, Chilwell 64
Sevilla (4-3-3): Bono; Navas (c), Gomez (Jordan 33), Carlos, Acuna; Rakitic (Vazquez 80), Fernando, Gudelj; Suso (Oliver 58), De Jong (En-Nesyri 80), Ocampos.
Unused subs Vaclik, Rekik, Escudero, Oscar, Fernandez, Munir.
Booked Acuna 43, Jordan 87
Referee Davide Massa from Italy