Chelsea’s return to the Champions League ended in disappointment as Ross Barkley missed a late penalty that ensured Valencia claimed victory at Stamford Bridge.
Frank Lampard’s first game as a manager in the tournament he won as a player with Chelsea in 2012 turned into a night of frustration as Valencia took advantage of slack marking at a free-kick for Rodrigo to score the winner on 74 minutes.
Chelsea, who lost in-form youngster Mason Mount to injury early on, had the chance to rescue a point when referee Cuneyt Cakir awarded a penalty for handball after consulting VAR when Daniel Wass blocked Fikayo Tomori’s header.
Barkley had only come on as a substitute eight minutes earlier but insisted taking the spot-kick instead of the Blues’ regular taker Jorginho and Willian, who argued his own case to take it before relenting.
It was a tight and tense encounter with chances at a premium and a tricky Group H, which also includes Lille and last year’s semi-finalists Ajax, has got even tougher for Chelsea after starting their campaign with a damaging home loss.
Chelsea lack touch of class
This was a tough start to life in the Champions League for Lampard and a Chelsea side robbed of the ‘X Factor’ given to them for so long by Eden Hazard.
The mood in the camp will not have been helped by Barkley’s insistence on taking that ill-fated late penalty when it appeared Jorginho, who scored in the Super Cup final against Liverpool, was stepping forward for the task.
Barkley’s determination came at a heavy price, glancing a poor effort off the bar and high into the Matthew Harding Stand. He took the kick after conversations with Jorginho, Willian, Tammy Abraham and captain Cesar Azpilicueta.
It ended with a handshake from Jorginho before the spot-kick but it was a chaotic scene with an almost inevitable conclusion.
It was a night when not much went right for Chelsea, starting with what looked like a nasty ankle injury to Mount, who was caught by a reckless follow-through in a challenge by former Arsenal midfielder Francis Coquelin.
Chelsea had their moments, especially when Jasper Cillessen saved from Willian and Marcos Alonso – but Lampard’s side simply could not produce the touch of quality to break down Valencia and were too static as Daniel Parejo’s free-kick released Rodrigo.
This means Chelsea are on the back foot only 90 minutes into their return to the Champions League and are still to win at Stamford Bridge this season.
Valencia lift the gloom
Chelsea’s disappointment will be even more acute as this looked like the perfect opportunity to get their Champions League campaign off to a winning start against a Valencia side who arrived in London amid turmoil.
Valencia’s players and fans had been infuriated by the decision to sack coach Marcelino last week after he won the Copa del Rey last season and took them back into the Champions League.
Marcelino’s successor Albert Celades started his reign with a 5-2 defeat at Barcelona on Saturday – but his Valencia side showed plenty of resolve here and were always a threat, which was realised by that free-kick that was just too quick and too smart for Chelsea and resulted in Rodrigo’s goal.
This was a real morale booster for Celades and Valencia but a serious blow for Chelsea as Ajax signalled their threat in Group H with a 3-0 win over Lille.
Tough night for Chelsea’s young guns
Chelsea’s young brigade have taken the Premier League by storm with Tammy Abraham scoring seven goals and Mason Mount on the mark three times.
Abraham found this a much tougher assignment although he still had moments of threat, particularly a glancing first-half header that was off target.
The 21-year-old never lost heart but he was starved of decent service and this was not to be his night.
It was even more painful for Mount, literally, as he never recovered from Coquelin’s early challenge and his attempts to carry on ended in despair. He and Chelsea will now anxiously await the medical verdict.
Defender Tomori did well in defence and also made his contribution in attack with a surging first-half run that brought danger and a header that resulted in the penalty.
There will be better nights than this but the Champions League will be adding layers to their learning experience.
Rare losing start for Chelsea – key stats
- This was only Chelsea’s second defeat in their past 42 Champions League group games at Stamford Bridge (W30 D10), with the other against Basel in 2013.
- Chelsea lost their opening Champions League match of a campaign for only the second time – the first was against Basel in 2013-14.
- Frank Lampard became the first Chelsea manager to lose his opening Champions League match in charge – 10 of the previous 11 had won, while Gianluca Vialli drew with AC Milan in 1999.
- Chelsea became the first team since Liverpool in December 2008 against PSV (Darby, Kelly, Spearing) to hand three Champions League debuts to Englishmen aged 21 or younger in the same game (Abraham, Mount, Tomori).
- Valencia registered only their second away Champions League win in England (D7 L3) – their first was a 1-0 win at Liverpool in October 2002.
Frank Lampard said managing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge for the first time was the “stuff of dreams”, despite Wilfred Ndidi’s second-half header earning Leicester City a deserved point.
Chelsea took the lead when 20-year-old midfielder Mason Mount scored a memorable first goal for the Blues after robbing Ndidi of possession just outside the Foxes penalty area before beating Kasper Schmeichel with a low drive.
Lampard’s side started with real intent, Spain forward Pedro volleying into the side-netting and France midfielder N’Golo Kante denied a goal against his former club by Christian Fuchs’ fine challenge either side of Mount’s goal.
Leicester were much better after half-time and secured the point their second-half dominance warranted when Ndidi got between Spain right-back Cesar Azpilicueta and France defender Kurt Zouma to head in from a corner.
Both teams remain without a win, with Leicester on two points from two games, one more than Chelsea.
“It felt great, it is a special moment for me to come back to the club and manage them at Stamford Bridge,” said Lampard, who was appointed Blues boss in the summer.
“For me it is a huge thing, but my focus today was on the match and trying to win.
“Thanks very much to the fans, I appreciate that, but I am here to do a job and here to try and win for the club and we can do better than we did today.”
Blues fade again on Lampard’s homecoming
Despite opening the season with their biggest Old Trafford defeat against Manchester United since 1965, there was a carnival atmosphere inside Stamford Bridge to welcome a Chelsea icon returning to manage the club he spent 13 years playing for.
Lampard’s image adorned the front cover of the programme, while the 41-year-old was greeted by the sight of a huge blue-and-white ‘Welcome Home Super Frank’ banner when he emerged from the tunnel before kick-off.
Flames from black boxes leapt into the sky as Stamford Bridge reverberated to the sound of Chelsea fans singing ‘Super Frank Lampard’.
There were placards and scarves too and it was not long before the veteran of 648 Chelsea appearances was punching the air in celebration after Mount punished Ndidi’s hesitancy after the Nigeria midfielder received the ball from Jonny Evans.
Despite the heavy 4-0 defeat, Chelsea had started the game well at Old Trafford last week, hitting the woodwork twice before falling away badly.
Chelsea faded in this game too, especially in comparison to the aggressive start they made in the upbeat atmosphere created by Lampard’s return – although their midweek Super Cup exertions in Turkey may have been a factor.
While Leicester failed to muster a shot on target in the first-half, Chelsea managed three in the opening seven minutes including Mount’s goal, a superb low finish that left Schmeichel flat-footed.
Fuchs’ challenge to deny his former team-mate Kante was pivotal, while Mount headed another opportunity at Schmeichel before Leicester responded strongly to take the shine off Lampard’s return.
Maddison inspires Leicester
Leicester are without a Premier League win in four games in a run that stretches back to last season, but their impressive second-half showing will leave Brendan Rodgers with optimism for the season ahead.
As poor as the Foxes were in the first half, they dominated after the interval and there will be a touch of disappointment they did not go on to seal victory.
Having managed just one shot in the opening 45 minutes, Leicester had 11 attempts in the second half of the match.
There are now few survivors from their legendary 2015-16 title-winning side, but in James Maddison, Rodgers has a player around whom he can build another impressive Foxes team.
The 22-year-old was the stand-out player in the game, not just content to distribute the ball intelligently but also threaten in the Chelsea box himself.
Maddison, who was called into the England squad last season, rounded Chelsea keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga but from the byline could not pick out a team-mate to apply the finish.
However he then delivered the corner that Ndidi headed home for the equaliser as Chelsea were caught cold.
The former Norwich player blazed a late chance to win the game over the bar but, while the game seemed to pass title-winning hero Jamie Vardy by, Maddison’s energy and creativity bodes well for Leicester’s future.
Man of the match – James Maddison (Leicester)
‘We need to be more clinical’ – what they said
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard, speaking to BBC Sport: “It’s very early for us. We have to be patient as we are working towards something.
“Two or three nil would have taken the game away from them but we didn’t take those chances. That’s the story of our season so far. We need to be more clinical, for sure. It is defining.”
On the reception he received from Chelsea’s fans: “This is home for me and I really appreciated the support. It’s my club, I played here so long and I’m slightly disappointed we didn’t get the win but I’m thankful to the fans.”
Leicester City boss Brendan Rodgers, speaking to BBC Sport: “It is my fault, the mistake [that led to Chelsea’s goal], because I ask my players to build in the game. But it was a brilliant response.
“We were outstanding in the second-half but didn’t win the game. We came out with a positive mindset and had chances to put it to bed. The most important thing is getting the players into those positions.”
Mount makes Chelsea history – the stats
- Mason Mount became the first English player to score on his first home appearance for Chelsea in the Premier League since Paul Hughes did so against Derby County in January 1997.
- Mount became the first English player to score for Chelsea under an English manager since Dennis Wise against Blackburn Rovers in May 1996 (Glenn Hoddle as manager).
- Frank Lampard is the first Chelsea boss to fail to win any of his first three games in charge of the club since Rafael Benitez in the 2012-13 campaign.
- Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers has faced Chelsea on 13 occasions as a manager but is yet to register a victory against the Blues.
- Leicester midfielder Wilfred Ndidi’s goal was just his fifth in 90 Premier League appearances, and his first away from home.
- After winning their first Premier League home game in 12 consecutive seasons between 2003-04 and 2014-15, Chelsea have failed to win three of their last five opening home games in the competition.
Both teams are in action against newly promoted teams next, with Chelsea at Norwich on Saturday (12:30 BST) and Leicester at Sheffield United (15:00) on the same day.