Costa draws blank, but Ronaldo returns

Diego Costa draws another blank
While Chelsea’s draw against Paris Saint-Germain has been completely overshadowed by fall-out from the depressing pre-match events in the French capital’s Richelieu-Drouot station, the underwhelming performances of several of José Mourinho’s most trusted lieutenants may also prove a source of concern at Stamford Bridge.

While an away score draw is an undeniably good result for the Premier League leaders, Mourinho has already acknowledged that it was only the “phenomenal” heroics of goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois that enabled Chelsea to avoid a potentially heavy defeat.

Several of Mourinho’s players looked extremely leggy during the second half in Paris, while Willian, Eden Hazard, Oscar and Cesc Fàbregas all failed to impose themselves in the style Chelsea fans have come to expect. By all accounts there were extenuating circumstances, as all four had their preparations for the game interrupted due to injury or illness.

Up front, Diego Costa looked his usual aggressive, snarling self, but was understandably lacking in sharpness having just returned from a three-match ban. What is not so understandable, is the striker’s failure to score in any of Chelsea’s Champions League this season, considering his obvious talent and excellent form in the Premier League.

Costa has featured in six Champions League matches for Chelsea this season, playing 388 minutes in total without finding the net. By this stage last season he had already notched up five goals in four European games for Atlético Madrid. Chelsea have coped admirably without his goals thus far, but considering their lack of strength in depth up front, cannot realistically expect to win this tournament without more telling contributions from a man whose most recent goal in the competition came last April, against the team in which he currently stars.

Business as usual for Cristiano Ronaldo

Any minor concerns Real Madrid might have had about Cristiano Ronaldo losing his mojo were ended last night when the Ballon d’Or winner ended what was, by his own own lofty standards, a worryingly barren spell of three matches without a goal. The Portuguese striker last went three games without a goal for Real in 2011 and his 26th minute header was his 58th goal in 58 Champions League appearances for the Spanish side as they made it 10 victories in 10 games to equal the longest winning run in the tournament’s history.

Despite the player’s record-breaking goalscoring exploits, Sky Sports’ astute Spanish football expert Terry Gibson believes Real Madrid would be better off selling Ronaldo come season’s end, saying that the player’s “individual obsession with his own achievements is hindering the performance” of his team.

“He has phenomenal stats every year,” said Gibson. “They get better and better but the all-round performance of Real Madrid is suffering because of his obsession with just scoring goals. They can’t find the system that suits all the players that they’ve got. We’re talking one star player and just below that we’re talking about other world class players such as Toni Kroos, James Rodríguez and Gareth Bale.

“This list goes on but he is above them. I just think Real would be better off taking the big money they would still get for Ronaldo and re-investing it in other world class players. I think they might be a better team for it.”

Winners and losers …

Winners . . . Basel: OK, not literally winners, but despite failing to maximise their home advantage, the Swiss champions were pleased with their home draw against Porto and remain confident of progressing to the Champions League quarter-finals for the first time with a good result at their rivals’ Estádio do Dragão. Fabian Frei, who loaded the chamber for Derlis González to fire the home side into a first-half lead, conceded that Basel hadn’t played their best, but remains optimistic they can make it further after qualifying from the group stages at Liverpool’s expense.

“There are many things we can do better, but we have two or three weeks to look at it, and it’s another game,” said Frei. “We scored a goal today, we can certainly score a goal in Porto, and with that, everything is possible.”

Losers . . . Bayern Munich: OK, not literally losers, but despite having almost 75% of possession in the first half of their surprise draw with Shakhtar Donetsk in Lviv, Bayern Munich could only muster one shot on goal, which is some going for a team that last failed to trouble a scoreboard operator in late October and has drawn just three blanks in 31 games so far this season. With the Spanish referee Alberto Mallenco having controversially presented Xabi Alonso with two yellow cards followed by the obligatory red one to mark the midfielder’s 100th appearance in the competition, Bayern will be forced to contest the second leg without their team’s heartbeat and most consistently excellent player.

While the Bayern manager Pep Guardiola refused to criticise his compatriot’s performance as referee, the club’s chief executive was far less reticent.

“I have to clearly say that the referee was a catastrophe,” he harrumphed. — The Guardian

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