Juan Mata believes Chelsea’s early goal was the central reason behind why they outplayed Manchester United on Sunday afternoon.
A woeful lack of communication between David de Gea, Chris Smalling and Daley Blind when judging a long ball from Marcos Alonso gave Pedro the chance to stroke the ball into an empty net after just 30 seconds.
Jose Mourinho‘s side never recovered, and went on to receive their biggest Premier League battering since October 2011, losing 4-0.
Writing in his weekly blog, Mata recognised the detrimental impact Chelsea’s early goal had on the entire game for the visitors.
“I’ll be honest: it’s been a tough day, with a final score that hurts, and this isn’t the best time to write these lines,” he said.
“Things got complicated since the first minute. By conceding an early goal the game we had in mind changed completely, and from that moment we weren’t able to come back.
“Chelsea had a much better start than us and we paid dearly for it. Once they scored the second goal, we tried to control the game a bit more by keeping the ball possession on Chelsea’s half of the pitch, but obviously they were feeling very comfortable in a compact defence, and every time we lost the ball they had an opportunity to initiate a dangerous counter-attack.
“We created some chances to score and get into the game, but I had the feeling that whenever we were close to do that, we were punished with another goal.”
Chelsea’s first goal, a product of some inexplicably disorganised defending, shaped the contest as a whole. From that moment onwards, the two sides matched each other when it came to the number of chances created (Mourinho’s side actually had more shots than the home side), but Antonio Conte’s side had a notable spring in their step.
Every time they went forward you expected them to score; every time Man United went forward, however, it felt as if they’d never convert any of their numerous chances, despite some being comparatively easier than the ones Chelsea scored from. This is where the physiological element comes into play: United’s entire persona was blunted – shocked, even – by that early goal, whilst Chelsea looked galvanised, as emphatically reflected in the scoreline.