Unwanted distraction

Sports | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 22 Apr 2021

Chelsea moved into the English Premier League's top four after a 0-0 draw against Brighton yesterday, but the result was completely overshadowed by the club's role in derailing the controversial European Super League.

Just before kick-off at Stamford Bridge, it was widely reported that Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich had decided to withdraw from the controversial breakaway plan.

Manchester City became the first team to officially pull out, with Manchester United, Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham also confirming their exits as the Super League crumbled before a match was ever played.

Against that dramatic backdrop, Chelsea produced a flat performance, although the draw saw Thomas Tuchel's side move into fourth place above West Ham on goal difference.

"We talk of nothing else but Super League before the match. I was affected, I think the players were affected," Tuchel said.

"The situation was not clear. You have to accept the distraction.

"We tried to create an atmosphere to win the game but could not. We looked mentally tired."

Chelsea visit West Ham on Saturday in a crucial clash in the race to qualify for next season's Champions League.

Just hours before kick-off, it seems Chelsea would not have to worry about qualifying for Europe thanks to their invitation to the closed-door Super League. But after resounding condemnation from across the political and sporting spectrum, Chelsea walked away.

While Stamford Bridge remained empty due to the coronavirus pandemic, around 1,000 fans had staged an angry protest before news of the Super League meltdown broke. Former Chelsea 'keeper Petr Cech, now the club's technical adviser, called on demonstrators to clear the roads to allow the team bus to reach the stadium.

"It felt like a monopoly trying to control the competition for profit," Brighton boss Graham said. "It was universal in how everyone got behind the issue. Hopefully we can move forward."

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