Thomas Tuchel challenges Chelsea to stop coasting when ahead after Zenit draw

Chelsea finish Champions League Group H campaign second behind Juventus

Zenit's Magomed Ozdoev, left, scores his side's third goal during the Champions League match against Chelsea at the Gazprom Arena in St Petersburg on Wednesday. AP
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Thomas Tuchel has challenged Chelsea to stop being fixated on the scoreboard and coasting when in the lead.

The Blues ended their Champions League Group H campaign with a galling 3-3 draw at Zenit St Petersburg, finishing second behind Juventus.

The Stamford Bridge men had already secured their slot in the last 16, but twice squandered control in Russia to take their total goals conceded to six in two matches.

A frustrated Tuchel insisted his players were still taking his messages on board, but have fallen into a bad habit of relaxing once ahead in matches.

Chelsea will jump straight from Russia to hosting Leeds in the Premier League on Saturday, where he will demand standards rise quickly, especially after last weekend’s 3-2 defeat at West Ham.

“I won’t take it personally that you make a judgmnt here that my players are not listening to me, which I don’t find so nice but I leave it with you and your opinion,” said Tuchel.

“I think that we had a very good first 15 minutes and we stopped doing the things we did in the first 15 minutes.

“We were forgetting why we were the better team, because of the investment, the level of concentration, the level of physical investment was high enough to be the better team.

“Once this drops, 5, 10 per cent, and it does; once we start managing results and changing our behaviour from what the score is, we get punished at the moment.

“It happened to us at West Ham and it happened again today. The reaction was good again, that shows me that it’s not about what we can do, because we can do it.

“Suddenly when we concede two goals we can step up, we can show a reaction. But once we have the lead we give it away again, like also today.

“The last six minutes again we started playing balls back, we started not attacking in the same aggression, the same hunger as before and we got immediately punished, now twice.”

Timo Werner bagged a brace and also teed up fit-again Romelu Lukaku for a tap-in, but the Blues leaked three frustrating goals on a chastening night on the road.

A host of enforced changes due to injuries and fatigue took their toll on Chelsea’s usually-rigid tactics, but Tuchel remains unsatisfied with the current state of affairs in west London.

“My analysis is very clear: our behaviour changes when we have a lead and this is something we never did and we should never do,” said Tuchel.

“We do the things that we want to do on the highest level and we push ourselves and it hurts and it has to hurt.

“You have to play through pain – physical pain – and you have to raise your level of concentration and you have to overcome adversity.

“If you change your behaviour because of the score, you allow the possibility to get punished.

“And it’s very easy; we need a higher level of sprints, a higher level of runs, a higher level of intensity and concentration.

“It’s as easy as the basics. The basics need to be pushed on to a higher level while we are in the lead.”

Winger Andrei Mostovoy praised Zenit’s fighting spirit in the draw, but refused to award the Russians top billing for their Group H campaign, with Sergei Semak’s side now dropping into the Europa League.

“We showed our character and I think the result is very good for us,” said Mostovoy.

“Reaching the Europa League was the minimum target for us. So I would rate our Champions League as a C-plus.

“We had good moments against Juventus at home and that was really disappointing that we lost. I think third place is justified.”

Updated: December 08, 2021, 10:22 PM
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