Europa League winners Atletico Madrid humiliated Chelsea in the UEFA Super Cup as they registered a comfortable 4-1 win, thanks to a brilliant hat-trick by Colombian striker Radamel Falcao.
The Blues were, at times, similarly outplayed during last season's triumphant Champions League campaign, particularly against Barcelona (semi final) and Bayern Munich (final) but scraped through with some luck and the always excellent form of Ivorian star Didier Drogba. This time, the absence of both meant the Blues were shown exactly where they stand in European cup football.
Despite having spent a staggering £80m+ on transfers this summer, Chelsea will be kicking themselves for missing out on Falcao. The 26-year-old striker was on brilliant form, hitting his second hat-trick in four days as he tormented the Chelsea defence.
Worse still, the Champions League winners' own star forward - Fernando Torres - barely made an impression on the Spanish club's back line; perhaps they knew him too well - this is the side the Spaniard spent almost a decade playing for before transferring to Liverpool. To be fair to Roman Abramovich's £50m signing, it was a collective failure. Chelsea, as a team, were considerably below par and senior players were quick to recognise their failings.
"Well, that was a lesson, absolute joke, no fight, desire, passion and a big reality check!!! Sorry CFC fans," left back Ashley Cole tweeted, while centre back Gary Cahill was furious in his quotes to The Sun.
"Everyone was below par and it was embarrassing at times. It was a massive game and we let ourselves down. The way we fell apart was just unacceptable," the former Bolton player said.
Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo, himself a member of the Chelsea squad that beat Real Madrid to lift the 1998 Super Cup, was unimpressed, particularly after his team's excellent start to the season (the Blues top the Premier League with maximum points from the opening three games).
"We were never in the game, but if you give Falcao that sort of space he is always dangerous," Di Matteo said in The Sun's report.
The match started with Atletico dominating possession and creating several early chances and it was Falcao doing all the running. The Colombian hit the crossbar in the fourth minute, which should have alerted Chelsea to the danger. Unfortunately for Blues fans, the back line took no heed of the warning and three minutes later they were made to pay. Falcao ran past an outstretched Cech and slotted the ball into an empty net, despite David Luiz's best efforts to keep the ball out.
Chelsea tried to come back through Eden Hazard but the Belgian, who has been excellent in the league so far, looked distinctly uneasy and a little short of ideas. The Spanish club then all but sealed the match with only 18 minutes on the clock, when a fast break found Falcao in acres of space - a cardinal sin - and the striker needed no second invitation. It was 2-0 to Diego Simeone's side and the game was effectively over.
It wasn't just that Chelsea lacked creativity up front; the problem started in the midfield, where Frank Lampard, John Mikel Obi and the normally reliable Ramires were completely over-run. When that happens, if your opponent has wingers like Turkish international Turan Arda, who can run with the ball and at defenders with no cover, you are always going to concede goals... and that is exactly what happened all through the first 45 minutes. In fact, it was Arda who set up Atletico's and Falcao's third goal of the night. The Turk ran more than 50 yards, with the ball, unchallenged, before putting the ball on a plate for his team-mate.
In the second half, new signing Oscar replaced Ramires and five minutes in the Blues registered their first real shot of the match - one that summed up their evening - a tame shot from Torres that went well wide off the post.
If there were any lingering doubts over the eventual winners, Brazilian internatinoal João Miranda settled matters with a well-taken finish off a Mario Suarez cut-back. Chelsea's consolation goal came in the 74th minute, when Cahill scored from a Lampard corner.
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