It’s not really a déjà-vu but it feels like one.
Wolfsburg is going to the Nou Camp, Chelsea is going to Wembley and we are left dealing with our regrets and recriminations.
Another big day is gone and we are left disappointed by a team that looks still very vulnerable to pressure and struggles to cope with setbacks. We started well, we had plenty of chances, we put Chelsea under pressure but we couldn’t capitalize them and we were punished for that – once again.
It was particularly cruel to see how quickly we went from being inches away from opening the score to trailing: Beth Mead turned brilliantly in the box and fired just wide of the far post then, less than 60 seconds later, Guro Reitner found the top corner and put Chelsea ahead.
That was the moment that knocked us out and the team never really recovered from that, which is probably the most disappointing takeaway from the sunny afternoon at Meadow Park. Although Chelsea grew into the game in the closing stages of the first half, we were playing well, we were defending well and we were very much into the game, yet we allowed one goal to derail us. I believed that we were past the subconsciously “downing the tool” phase, since Jonas Eidevall took over, but I see that we are still very fragile, mentally. That first goal truly took the wind out of our sails and made it look like the players were somehow surrendering, accepting the inevitable defeat, which of course is very worrying.
As usual, Jonas Eidevall was very honest in his post-match press conference and said it very well:
“If we had carried on being consistent, carrying out the game plan, even if we had lost 1-0 and it wasn’t enough, then ok, maybe it isn’t your day and you can accept it. If we want to be a winning team we cannot be dependent on scoring the first goal, of course it is an advantage but we need to have the mentality of being consistent, carrying on doing all the right things and we didn’t do that today.”
We didn’t really deserve to be one goal behind and definitely didn’t deserve to lose by two goals, yet to let that happen by losing focus and belief as soon as they scored the first goal. We became sloppy, we made several individual mistakes, we didn’t communicate well and we didn’t truly react to falling behind. I would have loved (and Jonas too, I guess) to see the more experienced players in the team to help their teammates, keep the focus high and prevent any snowball effect from happening:
“I also think it’s accountability, to keep each other accountable for the way we play and not to let one mistake become two or three mistakes. If somebody is jumping out of position or making bad decisions, then we need to communicate and tell that player to do it differently. Or sometimes we might need to play easier so that we don’t make the second and third mistakes.”
The coach’s words suggest that there might be a lack of leadership on the pitch, which is quite surprising considering that we have the likes of Leah Williamson, Manu Zinsberger, Katie McCabe, Lia Wälti and Kim Little in our ranks: how is this happening? Why none of our most influential players is speaking up when things start to go wrong? I guess this might be the missing step in making a very good team like ours become a top team.
Handling pressure and expectations is probably the most difficult aspect of football and team sports in general, where you need to get there in unison and where individual success depends heavily on other people. This team clearly lacks the ability to handle the money time but hopefully is learning from defeats like this one or the one suffered against Wolfsburg.
We cannot allow disappointments like this one get in the way now, because the season is far from being over. With four games to go in the league, Chelsea might still slip along the way and we have to be ready to take advantage of that. If we keep thinking about what we should have done and how things should have gone in this semifinal, or in the Champions League, we might sleep on our chance.
Great teams know how to deal with pressure but also know how to deal with disappoitment, let’s see how great of a team we are.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.