Champions League – After Chelsea – Lille – Decisive passer, tireless man of the match: N’Golo Kanté has done everything

25 matches in all competitions, 12 small tenures in the Premier League so far: often hampered by physical glitches, sometimes barred by the Jorginho-Kovacic pair, N’Golo Kanté is not experiencing his fullest season on the side of Chelsea. But when approaching these knockout stages of the Champions League, as when facing Liverpool or Manchester City at the start of the year, it was the former Caennais who was chosen by Thomas Tuchel to start against Lille. . And – what a surprise! – he paid her back.

This scene will eventually become an old habit: Kanté still held the man of the match trophy at the end of the meeting on Tuesday evening. Last season, it was given to him in the semi-final first leg, in the semi-final second leg, and in the final. Outstanding for a player whose profile is generally not one of those put forward. At least, if we can speak of a single profile when we talk about the 2018 world champion.

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N’Golo Kante, man of the match against Lille

Credit: Getty Images

Kante did it all

Because the former Leicester player had left none of his caps at home. He released that of the perfect stalker-recoverer, with four tackles and two interceptions. That of the excellent ball handler, capable of coming out cleanly under pressure, especially with his back to the game, but also of multiplying the diagonals to stretch the opposing block – four successful crosses, match record excluding goalkeepers and central defenders. And, finally, that of the formidable swallower of spaces.

What could be better, as an illustration, than his decisive pass to Christian Pulisic on the goal of the break? Taking the ball in his court, percussion ball at the foot by depositing Xeka, perfect fixation of the Fonte-Botman pair, and shift in the right tempo for the American winger: everything was right. And who better than the main interested party to tell this action. “Thiago (Silva) puts me a good ball, well supported, I have time to turn around and then attack space. I have two players who make the deep call, I put it to Christian and he manages to beat the goalkeeper and give us a good lead on this match”he summed up at the microphone of RMC Sports with the restraint that characterizes it.

N’Golo has been great for us

Here he is already with three “assists” this season, as many as the two previous ones combined. From the Frenchman’s actions qualifying for a compilation of the highlights of the evening, there were others, from his recovery at Xeka’s feet followed by a perfect pass for Ziyech to his cross from the right side culminating in a opportunity for Marcos Alonso. Almost more tiring to enumerate for us, than to realize for him. But very significant for Thomas Tuchel.

“We looked for a solution to be three in the middle. We changed the structure a bit to have the possibility of winning the ball a little higher, with N’Golo who was great today for us”, explained the German coach on Canal+, about the tactical changes implied by the exits on injuries of Mateo Kovacic then Hakim Ziyech, replaced by Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Saul Niguez. “We started with a midfield two, flat. Then I was a little more advanced, I had a few balls to play in front, and I’m happy to have contributed to the second goal”, confirmed the Frenchman. Two or three in the middle, to defend or attack. At the risk of repeating ourselves: is there something that cannot be asked of Kanté?

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