The La Liga side spoiled the party for Frank Lampard on his first managerial night in Europe, making away with a smash and grab 1-0 win at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday night in Matchday 1 of the UEFA Champions League.
A 74th minute Rodrigo goal ensured Valencia left London with all the three points at stake as Chelsea began their Champions League campaign on a sorry note.
Tammy Abraham was lively in the first half but a shadow of his weekend self in the second 45, as Valencia appeared to be the perfect antidote for the free-scoring 21-year-old.
Frank Lampard stuck with the 3-4-3 that helped his men smash Wolves 5-2 last weekend – a game that saw Abraham grab a hat trick – with the Blues manager making only one change to that XI – Zouma coming in for the injured Rudiger.
On the other hand, Valencia made two changes after their own 5-2 defeat to Barcelona – Cheryshev and Kondogbia getting the nod to replace Torres and Guedes.
Chelsea had not lost a game in European competition since 2017-18 when they went out in the round of 16 of this competition to Barcelona. They won 12 and drew three of their European games last season as they went on to win the Europa League. And crises-ridden Valencia seemed all ready for the taking.
But the hosts found the going tough, with the La Liga outfit staying compact and composed from kick-off.
Chelsea’s best chance finally arrived at the end of the half when Azpilicueta found Willian who took the ball on the half-volley and forced a save from Cillessen. Valencia were however, able to clear the rebound.
It remained scoreless at the break with the hosts probably the better side. They made a few good chances, but no clear-cut ones. Valencia showed enough though to look dangerous on the counter.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) September 17, 2019
With the game petering out into a lame stalemate and less than 20 minutes left on the clock, Lampard went for broke, bringing on Olivier Giroud in place of Kurt Zouma, a tactical change no less.
It was Valencia though who made the game’s next telling impact. Kovacic fouled Gaya in a central position. Parejo’s resultant free-kick found Rodrigo who had made a clever run unmarked towards the near post. The Valencia man hit the ball into the ground and watched it bounce over Kepa and into the roof of the net to give the visitors the lead.
The goal, by the way, was only Rodrigo’s third Champions League goal in his 25th appearance in the competition, his first in 10 for Valencia. Not a bad game in which to get it.
It was time for Chelsea to really chase the game.
The Blues piled forward in numbers, half in determination and half in desperation. Eventually, VAR came to the rescue and handed the Blues a penalty, having adjudged Wass to have blocked a shot with his arm.
Ross Barkley took the spot-kick and missed, handing Chelsea their first defeat in Europe since 15 matches ago.