After ending his long wait for a Chelsea goal, Mateo Kovacic assessed the value of our draw in Valencia and looked forward to a big European night at the Bridge coming up.
Just 108 seconds after Carlos Soler had volleyed the Spanish side in front, Kovacic levelled with his maiden Chelsea strike, and it was a fine effort at that, drilled low and hard into the bottom corner from 20 yards out.
Christian Pulisic prodded us ahead and then after Kepa had superbly saved a penalty, Valencia fortuitously equalised with time running out. There were late chances as an incident-packed encounter swung from one end to the other, but no further goals leaves qualification to the Champions League knockout stages in our hands.
‘It was a difficult game, as always at the Mestalla,’ said Kovacic, who played there during his time at Real Madrid.
‘We had to work very hard. At the end maybe we dropped a little bit too much, but that’s normal, we were a little bit tired as well. This is the game, sometimes you need to drop. We conceded a stupid goal, but that’s football.
‘In the end a draw is not bad for us, it’s a good point. We need to improve still a lot, we have time and lots of space to, and we will keep working.’
Kovacic has been imperious of late and enjoyed another excellent evening’s work in Spain. Alongside his first goal for the club, and his first of any kind since January 2017, the Croatian recorded the best pass completion rate on the pitch (95 per cent), made the most accurate passes of anyone in a Chelsea shirt (55), and was successful with a game-high five dribbles.
While understandably happy with his own contribution, and at breaking his Blues duck, the midfielder quickly turned his attention to our next European engagement, at home to Lille on 10 December. A victory will send us through.
‘It won’t be easy,’ stressed Kovacic.
‘In the Champions League there are no easy games, but it’s important it’s in our hands. We need to win at home in front of our fans and I hope we will do it.’