The Black Stars full-back’s first big Chelsea outing reveals
he’s no £21m fraud and Stamford Bridge should begin to appreciate that
And that’s just how it’s done, isn’t it?
Any Ghanaian who watched Baba Rahman star for Chelsea two nights ago
against French lords Paris Saint-Germain would surely have beamed with
pride as the young man held his own against some of the finest
footballers money can buy. There’d also have been a collective sigh of
relief, too, in response to the comforting realization that watching
one game too many from the sidelines hadn’t left Rahman all rusty and
shorn of the sparkle which caught Chelsea’s eye prior to his summer
purchase from Germany’s Augsburg.
Voicing his frustrations early last month in an interview with German
magazine Sport Bild, Rahman moaned: “Of course it’s frustrating for
any footballer to sit in the stands and I don’t want to experience
that too much more.
“As a young player, of course, you have to get used to such a big club
and a world-class league. For me the first half of the season was
pretty OK but in the second half I really want to play more.”
And, likely until injury forced Chelsea skipper John Terry off in
Saturday’s 5-1 mauling of Newcastle United, Rahman’s chance may have
been yet a little longer in coming. His last appearance for the Blues
had been in another 5-1 win at the end of January, but only against
Milton Keynes Dons in the FA Cup, and Rahman thus jumped at the scraps
offered him versus the Magpies, carrying the hunger into Chelsea’s
other fixture in the week. Yet while — ahead of the first leg Uefa
Champions League Round of 16 duel at PSG mentioned from the outset —
Rahman increasingly seemed sure of making Chelsea’s starting line-up,
fans may have reasonably shuddered at the prospect of how the night
could end up for a boy who had only ever played against teams like
Aston Villa, West Ham, Stoke City, Bournemouth and Walsall [and not
doing much to generally convince even against such unglamorous
opponents] since landing in London. To that though, the competition’s official Twitter
account had a persuasive answer.
‘How very re-assuring was that, though?,’ many a skeptical Chelsea
supporter may have asked in response.
One appearance at home to Dynamo Kiev and two against Maccabi Tel Aviv?
Not by any measure frighteningly good but, then again, not to be
scoffed at either, as Rahman proved rather delightfully in France’s capital.
Chelsea lost 2-1, but Rahman certainly stood out among their best
performers. Being youngest on the pitch (PSG defender Marquinhos is
some two months older, though also 21) — until the 80th minute
introduction of 20-year-old Adrien Rabiot — hardly fazed Rahman, and
he radiated ever so brilliantly. It was why whoscored.com gave him a
7.61 rating, with only goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois and Chelsea Player
of the Year-in-waiting Willian coming closest among his teammates at
7.27 apiece. Just as impressively, Rahman made twice as many
interceptions as any other Chelsea man (six), topping it with four
It wasn’t really easy in the beginning, to be sure. Originally set up
against the tricky Angel Di Maria, Rahman blinked at one move from the
Argentine and fell flat on his bum. And when, in the ninth minute,
Rahman got chided by scary Diego Costa (with the Spaniard’s fear
factor revved up a notch with that mask) for a slightly over-hit pass,
it seemed Rahman would crack early. But he didn’t, not even doing so
much as flinch. Rahman got his next crucial pass to Costa
inch-perfect, a cross which, but for PSG goalkeeper Kevin Trapp’s
heroics, Chelsea’s big forward would surely have buried to claim the
lead 15 minutes before the hosts took it.
Di Maria himself struggled to have much more fun against the Ghanaian,
perhaps prompting Laurent Blanc’s switching the former Real Madrid
star to the other flank midway. Rahman’s new opponent, Brazilian Lucas
Moura, was a threat alright with his pace, yet even he found the Ghana
international an unyielding customer, eventually resulting to foul
methods in an attempt to suppress Rahman’s own offensive bursts and
earning a yellow card for it three minutes before he was hauled off
for matchwinner Edinson Cavani. And it wasn’t just Moura who Rahman
kept in check, with the overlapping Marquinhos also being held off
(although Rahman may have preferred to have battled suspended PSG
regular right-back Serge Aurier, with whom he has unfinished business
from their mini-duel in last year’s Afcon final).
In so many ways, then, it was just the kind of performance from Rahman
that should inspire confidence in interim boss Guus Hiddink (also
whoever is appointed substantively), Chelsea fans and, most
importantly, in the lad himself. Clearly, though, only more game-time
— and especially in the matches that matter — would further
underline Rahman’s worth. If he’s cut it against one of Europe’s
best-assembled units, he really could against anyone else, all things
And he would, given a little more time and faith.