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Diabolical decision hinders Chelsea's Champions League hopes


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25744607442311201120484.jpgBayer Leverkusen 2

Chelsea 1

Chelsea's hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages of the Champions League took a massive blow as Bayer Leverkusen came from behind to record a stunning 2-1 victory over the West London outfit.

Andre Villas-Boas' side succumbed to their fourth defeat in seven matches and their first in Europe this term, as Manuel Friedrich emphatically looped a header beyond Petr Cech in stoppage time after substitute Eren Derdiyok had nodded the hosts back into contention with a quarter-of-an-hour remaining.

Didier Drogba had earlier put Chelsea ahead just minutes after the half-time interval with a classy finish; showing superb composure to hold off and subsequently turn two defenders before retaining his balance to fire in off the base of Leverkusen stopper Leno's right-hand upright for just the Ivorian's second strike of the season - yet it was another incident involving the Blues striker this encounter pivoted upon.

After Drogba's 47th-minute opener, Chelsea had quickly surged through the gears and but for some wayward finishing, should have been able to extend their lead before Derdiyok restored parity with his first touch of the game; a clever header back across the face of goal after an accidental dummy from the Swiss international had left the Chelsea defence woefully exposed at the rear.

Despite that set-back, the Blues continued to hold the initiative and looked to have earned the perfect opportunity to restore their lead when Drogba was brutally hacked down inside the penalty area. But despite replays demonstrating that the Chelsea forward had clearly been first to the ball before being felled illegally just outside the six-yard box, the referee waved play on and the Blues were left to rue more wretched officiating in this competition as a last-minute sickener was delivered via the forehead of the German defender.

It is not the first time that penalty decisions have been the undoing of Chelsea's Champions League endeavours, and the lack of a decision in this crunch game ensures that the Blues must now beat Valencia at Stamford Bridge in early December.

After an entirely forgettable first half - Michael Ballack's header against the crossbar the only highlight of a relatively insipid and uninspiring forty-five minutes - the Blues came out for the second period full of renewed vigour and Drogba's precise finish looked to have given them the foothold for progression to the next round of the competition for the ninth consecutive season.

Such was the confidence of Villas-Boas' outfit that they almost hit the hosts with both barrels; the only thing denying Frank Lampard his eighth goal of the season being a relatively poor finish as he could only head straight at the Leverkusen goalkeeper. Promisingly, however, the Blues' attacking plays had suddenly sparked into life, with the imaginative, incisive passing that had provided the cornerstone to the side's early-season achievements returning. The chemistry was flowing and the Blues were looking more like their usual dangerous selves.

Branislav Ivanovic was the next to test his luck, but in what was becoming all too-familiar an outcome, the finishing was letting down a torrent of Chelsea attacks as the Serbian only sought to pick out the gloves of the young Leverkusen custodian, who was enjoying a confident display between the posts.

With the hour mark approaching, Ballack - the former Chelsea star, playing in his 100th European Cup tie - suddenly stepped to the fore and but for a brace of excellent saves from Petr Cech, the former Germany international might have had a token goal to cap off his century of appearances at the highest level of the club game. First, his inventive albeit cumbersome attempt at an overhead kick was tipped over by his Czech counterpart before a sublime point-blank save from the Chelsea stopper maintained the Blues' slender advantage.

The private battle between the two masked men was proving to be an iconic side-story, and Cech had to be alert to deny Leverkusen substitute Schurrle, though like Lampard earlier in the half, he ought to have done better than to direct the ball into the grateful palms of the man in the Chelsea goal. Immediately at the other end as the game began to spark into a more evenly-contested encounter, only a piece of good goalkeeping from Leno prevented Sturridge from doubling the lead after surging through down the right.

That effort from the young Englishman was the result of a lightning counter, but it was a case study in anti-climax as the finish failed to match the speed and skill with which Sturridge had been able to accelerate across 80 yards of turf before supplying a finish that should, and could, have been a more clinical one.

It had been a night of guilt-edged chances being wasted - Drogba having early blazed over after rounding the goalkeeper from Sturridge's clever through ball in one of the few bright moments before half-time - but there was to be no such charity from the home side as Derdiyok capitalised on a portion of good fortune. Failing to bring the ball under control, Derdiyok will be grateful to winger-cum-full-back Sidney Sam, who had gambled on the loose ball. With space to maraud into, it was the simplest of tasks for his team-mate to nod into an unguarded net despite the presence of three Chelsea defenders.

That stroke of good luck seemed to do little to stem the flow of the Chelsea tide, however, but contrasting fortunes inside the penalty area saw Didier Drogba denied a stonewall penalty. You will see few worse decisions in Europe's premier club competition this season - but UEFA referees are well-trained in the denial of blatant penalties when Chelsea are involved; the Blues' last successful spot kick in the competition coming from Drogba's right boot in a 4-1 win over Spartak Moscow in early November 2010.

All that was left was for insult to be added to injury; for salt to be rubbed into a gaping wound. Such a punchline was delivered by the head of Manuel Friedrich, who bulleted home the most sumptuous of headers to leave Villas-Boas smarting, Chelsea dumbstruck and their hopes of Champions League progression hanging by a thin thread.

The equation is simple - fail to beat Valencia, and it is Europa League football come February.

As to how Chelsea went on to lose a game in which they were cruising and playing with confidence is something of a mystery, though not entirely surprising. The Blues have a woeful record away from home in the competition of late - losing eight of their last twelve group stage matches away from Stamford Bridge. The signs were there; it is classic Chelsea to implode after suffering a refereeing injustice. Ultimately, it was Viktor Kassai's mind-numbing decision not to award a penalty that cost this Chelsea side - but equal to the blame was lackadaisical marking at the death from Gonzalo Castro's outswinging corner. It would appear the Blues' defensive woes have no end at this moment.

This defeat is a bitter one to swallow, and not purely for its repercussions. Chelsea played well - in Daniel Sturridge they had the best player on the pitch; a livewire and constant attacking threat. His through-ball for Drogba's opener was perfectly-weighted and executed with aplomb, and but for a more composed finish after a sublime surge down the right wing, the young Englishman - at the heart of all that was good about a promising Blues performance - would have had a goal to cap a memorable night where he announced himself to European football.

But instead of focussing on the young man's brilliance, Sturridge's contribution will be forgotten underneath endless newspaper headlines stating the obvious; that Andre Villas-Boas is under pressure. But surely that is the currency of football management? When has a manager not been under pressure? When had he not fretted that defeat may cost him a league championship, result in relegation, or lose him his job? Similarly, when has a coach been so comfortable in his job that he can afford for negligence and complacency?

With the manager's job comes great responsibility - and the allure of the Chelsea job will no doubt have been laced by pressure to succeed and achieve; for surely that is the drug that all coaches crave? Chelsea are a club in transition, and change does not come lightly, nor does it come with speed. Villas-Boas is working with a group of players he is barely accustomed to, a group of players that are comprised of a mixture of youthful potential and aged experience that is on its very, very last legs. Whether it is phasing out the old guard or introducing new talent to the paying patrons at Stamford Bridge, this is a process that will be long, arduous, and consist of many more disappointments such as tonight.

Whilst all is not lost, patience is the stance we must adopt. Concern may creep in and perhaps even become prevalent should the Blues fail to beat Wolverhampton Wanderers this weekend, and should Chelsea miss out of the knockout rounds of the Champions League it will be both a mental and financial blow to the club and its aspirations for the foreseeable future. In the meanwhile, we should hope and pray that inspirational materialises out of somewhere to beat away the dark cloud that is looming over SW6.

This is a game Chelsea ought to have won. Instead the incessant head-banging, the needless criticisms of a young manager learning his trade and the condemnation of a team that three weeks ago were world-beaters has already begun. Football supporters are a fickle breed, afterall. Fickle, and embarrassing. Especially those that expect, expect, expect. Perspective is a gift few who have enjoyed success are able to boast.

At least there is one definite consistency in football; UEFA-appointed referees are absolutely atrocious.

So let the plastics have their spell in the limelight and let them come crawling aplenty from underneath the woodwork. They may be here to stay for a while - things will definitely get worse before they begin to improve - but ultimately, this work-in-progress will be of a sufficient standard. This season, the Blues have proved they still have 'it' - whether 'it' seems to be a fully-firing front three of Fernando Torres, Juan Mata and the aforesaid Daniel Sturridge remains to be seen - and they remain in contention for trophies this season even if the doubters are predicting relegation, administration, liquidation and for pigs to fly.

But with patience comes great reward. Roman Abramovich lost his patience with Jose Mourinho. He did the same with Luiz Felipe Scolari, and with double-winning Carlo Ancelotti, too. One hopes that the €13 million he spent on acquiring Villas-Boas' services is enough to see the job through. Time after time, this much needed period of transition has been postponed, instead the short-term being prioritised. Chelsea do have a bright future, but like Manchester United when Sir Alex Ferguson arrived, that bright future must first emerge out of relative mediocrity and be subjected what will turn out to be a waiting game.

Change doesn’t happen overnight - patience is a virtue, and patience is the key. Let’s be frank; would Chelsea ever do it in any other fashion than the hard way? Keep the faith.

Leverkusen (4-2-3-1): Leno; Schwaab (Schürrle 56), Friedrich, Toprak, Kadlec (Derdiyok 70); Bender, Rolfes ©; Castro, Ballack, Sam; Kiessling (Oczipka 81).

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic, D Luiz (Alex 68), Terry ©, Bosingwa; Ramires, Meireles (Mikel 79), Lampard; Sturridge, Drogba, Mata (Malouda 64).

The TalkChelsea Man of the Match award goes to #23 DANIEL STURRIDGE

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Good read and I agree with most.

Watching the replay of the last goal it was a bit weird seeing Cech seemingly withdraw his hand allowing the ball to go in. I hope ther isnt a subsequent betting scam going on ala Grobelaar.

On guts and determination shown last night, a place in the Ropey league is all that we deserve

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As in he was fouled not once, but twice, but two different players in the same instance! BLATANT.

meh I got used to it...I would've been surprised if the ref actually gave us the penalty...

Of course, Barcelona was awarded a penalty against Milan that gave them an equalizer, but they play the best football in the world and are the EU champions while we are a mercenary team full of rich superstars, shit fans and a stupid manager so fuck Chelsea as always, ey refs? :angry:

But whatever, we should've outplayed them and scored 2 or 3 last night...

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Good report :)

Ref gave us several decisons first half so you knew it wasnt going to last....but it is getting silly now every season! Whats the point in having extra blokes if even they cant make up their minds or not on what they saw....mean obviously not the reason we lost but still...annoying!!

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We've made things difficult for ourselves but there's no "massive blow" as you call it. A win against Valencia is all it takes.

I think a draw is enough so it's in our hands for sure but with Leverkusen playing that wank Belgium team, we're bound for 2nd place and round err... 5? 6? with Barca. At least it's a match i'd be buzzing for and something that if we do win, will make up for a lot of the season. If we knocked Real or Barca out the UCL, i'd probably even forgive that Arsenal game.

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Draw 0-0 or win and we go through.

Lose or its a score draw and we're out.

0-0 is not an option, almost every team has been able to score against us this season, Valencia are more than capable of doing that.... But it's a home game, so it's reassuring.. and we did draw the away game only thanks to a certain player's brainfart.

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0-0 is not an option, almost every team has been able to score against us this season, Valencia are more than capable of doing that.... But it's a home game, so it's reassuring.. and we did draw the away game only thanks to a certain player's brainfart.

Yeah relax. In the last 2 matches at the Bridge we only conceded 7 so no worries with our defense :D

We can win if the players snap out of it and start performing, but if they don't...they probably will though, they wanna play in CL don't they? :D

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Let's please not start with the penalty shit story again.We are a team that doesn't get a lot of decisions going their way.Against Barcelona we blamed the ref for three penalties and we had the right to,but did we consider that we had loads of 100% chances that we missed and that we they had a man down and we still defended? Yes of course not we became a club that relies on excuses.I am sick of tired of them,when we play well we will win.When we are shit we will lose and it is simple as that.Awkward games will happen and things will go against us but if we still manage to play well thing won't go that badly.

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my worry is when we finish second in the group ..WE WILL get Barca or Real ,,,Manure will get the Cypriots ,,, We need Genk to do us a big favour

I know what you mean mate, i don't think Genk will get anything against Leverkusen though. I think we are destined to get Real Madrid, we have never played them in the CL.

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