SAINT PETERSBURG, Russia—Just four days removed from an Olympic disappointment, Chelsea defender Matt Miazga enjoyed a nice Premier League debut as the visitors posted a 4-0 victory over Brad Guzan's Aston Villa.
Last Tuesday night, the Red Bulls academy product was shown red to cap a letdown showing in the US Under-23 national team's last-chance Olympic qualifying tie with Colombia. What a difference a game makes; on Saturday, injury stand-in Miazga helped the Blues record their first shutout in 11 games. We're here to break down his debut.
OFF THE BALL
The former Red Bulls center back was much busier in the first half, when he made nine of his 13 total defensive stops. Miazga notched five clearances, including three under pressure. He added three pass interceptions, all from stepping up into lanes during the opening 45 minutes. The new Blue also chalked up three tackles, a blocked shot and a last-minute cross block.
Miazga was not pulled out of position a single time, but he struggled early in dealing with the aerial game of Villa striker Rudy Gestede. He lost four straight close duels against Gestede in the game's first half-hour, but then rallied to win his next three air challenges.
On the down side, the American was too lax on Jordan Ayew's 31st minute off-the-ball run, but Villa's most dangerous advance to that point soon faltered. A few minutes before halftime, Miazga hesitated in closing down Ayew's dribble and the Ghana international managed to get off a shot that traveled a bit wide. He was also slow to slide over to cover Gestede in the 76th minute, but the striker was not quite able to reach a low cross.
ON THE BALL
Miazga made good on 41 of 56 passes, with most of his incompletions coming on long balls. He had two passing turnovers in the Chelsea end, though both were intercepted up near midfield with plenty of Blues back.
The 20-year-old linked up seven times to aid possession while under at least mild pressure and was able to lead Chelsea right back Cesar Azpilicueta up the flank six times. Miazga went 2-for-2 on long switches, including a pinpoint diagonal ball to left winger Kenedy in the early moments of the match.
In the 38th minute, Miazga made a bid for a debut assist. He got onto the end of a Chelsea free kick to volley a centering feed, but US teammate Guzan snatched it just ahead of a Villa runner.
There were a few nits to pick, but it was a very solid EPL debut for the young American. That said, Villa is the least challenging opponent in the Prem this season. With regular center backs Gary Cahill and John Terry both listed as day-to-day, Miazga may need to level up again very soon.