Antonio Conte was in no mood to wax lyrical about the virtues of free-flowing Champions League football after his Chelsea side lost the plot and threw away a two-goal lead before scrambling a 3-3 home draw with AS Roma on Wednesday.
A week in which Liverpool scored seven in Maribor, Spartak Moscow thumped Sevilla 5-1, Leipzig edged a five-goal thriller against Porto and Real Madrid and Tottenham Hotspur went toe to toe in a frantic Bernabeu clash continued with an enthralling Group C game at Stamford Bridge.
Chelsea led with goals by David Luiz and Eden Hazard but they ceded control as Alexsandar Kolarov and Edin Dzeko’s double looked set to knock Conte’s side off the top of the group.
Hazard’s second of the night ensured they remain favourites to reach the last 16 but Conte, who had never conceded three goals as a manager in the Champions League before, was far from happy with what he had witnessed.
After successive Premier League defeats by leaders Manchester City and bottom club Crystal Palace, Conte would have cherished a dull 1-0 win against Roma to steady the ship.
Instead his side, so rock-solid last season when winning the English title, looked worryingly vulnerable without the defensive screen provided by injured midfielder N’Golo Kante.
“I like to be honest and for sure I didn’t like the type of football we played for a lot of parts of the game,” Conte told reporters. “It’s right to take the responsibility for this.
“I tried in one end to protect my team, to become more solid and to move our central defenders in the midfield, Luiz. At the other end I think we lost totally our knowledge, our style of football. I didn’t like this.
“It was the third time Chelsea had failed to win a Champions League match having enjoyed a two-goal lead – all at Stamford Bridge and one, in 2012, when Conte’s Juventus drew 2-2.
They still top the group with seven points and third-placed Atletico Madrid’s surprise draw with Qarabag means it would need a major collapse to fail to finish in the top two.
“In the first half we were 2-0 up, but we weren’t in control of the game,” Conte said.
“It was good to draw though and I have to praise my players because they showed a big effort, a big commitment, otherwise we lose the game.
“Chelsea have a fast turnaround before hosting high-flying Watford on Saturday when anything other than a win could see them losing touch with the Premier League leaders.
“We must do better than we are doing now,” Conte said. “I’m not going home happy.
“Fellow Italian Eusebio Di Francesco was the happier manager, even if he was frustrated by his side’s defensive errors.
“I was pleased we played with character regardless of the score,” he said. “That’s what the fans certainly appreciate.”