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Brandão Ensures Chelsea Slide Continues


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Olympique de Marseille 1-0 Chelsea

Wednesday 8 December 2010, the UEFA Champions League, Stade Velodrome


Didier Drogba's return to Marseille will leave bittersweet memories in the Ivorian's mind

Chelsea's recent struggles took another turn for the worse after Brandão's late winner condemned them to another defeat as Marseille triumphed at the Stade Velodrome.

With European progress already secured thanks to a run of five straight victories in the Champions League, Carlo Ancelotti's side were looking to become the first British team to achieve a perfect group stage record, but any minuscule hopes of such an accomplishment were snuffed out with the Brazilian's 80th-minute winner as the Blues' recent woes continue.

Chelsea are now without a win in three matches in all competitions, whilst a solitary win in six has seen them surrender a four point-lead in the Premier League - whilst the defeat in southern France has condemned the Blues to their first defeat in European competition since March, despite Ancelotti fielding a near-full-strength starting eleven.

A further blow came with the loss of José Bosingwa to an apparent hamstring injury midway through the second half, and to add insult to injury, the Blues were also turned down two stonewall penalties as Didier Drogba endured a disappointing return to his old stomping ground after his magnificent twelve-month spell with the reigning French champions during the 2003-04 campaign.

Whilst the result is not a direct blow to Chelsea's European hopes this campaign thanks to previously-imperious form in this competition, it will be a major concern to Ancelotti that his stand-out player was 17 year-old Josh McEachran on a night where, once again, the Blues were let down by their star players. Drogba may have been in the mood to reminisce about his love affair with the French club, but the Ivorian talisman should be quick to remember who pays his wages following another below-par showing.

It was not just Chelsea's number 11 who will be disappointed with another lackadaisical performance - even the usually faultless John Terry was below his usual standards with only Petr Cech, McEachran and Branislav Ivanovic who can be anything close to pleased with their individual displays.

And with the Premier League's four in-form outfits next on the agenda for the Blues - including a weekend trip to White Hart Lane to face Tottenham, followed by games with Manchester United, Arsenal and Bolton - it looks as if Chelsea's woes are set to continue with a lack of confidence betraying their current predicament.

A massive concern to Chelsea supporters will come from their problems defensively - seen as the Premier League's best backline and typically dealing in a currency of shut-outs, the Blues have kept a single clean sheet in their last ten matches, whilst up front a meagre five goals have been scored in the last seven outings to boot.

It seems there is no end of problems for Ancelotti, who now must navigate a tricky Christmas period without his first-choice right-back in Bosingwa, as well as defensive stalwart Alex who will not return until February at the earliest.

The problem for Chelsea in Marseille stemmed largely from a poor performance from Russian referee Vladislav Bezborodov, who was clearly still feeling the side-effects of celebrating his nation's World Cup bid success. Bezborodov, who incidentally was making his debut as a Champions League official, set the tone early on when he awarded a Chelsea penalty for a blatant hack on Malouda inside the box by Souleymane Diawara, only to instead award a corner after a conversation with the linesman.

Such a decision would not have been so controversial had the Russian official not been certain about awarding the spot kick in the first place, having instantly blown his whistle. Feeling hard done by, Kalou was next to feel the extent of the referee's obvious inability to officiate as another penalty decision went against the Blues, much to Ancelotti's bemusement.

In all fairness, Marseille can feel themselves a touch unfortunate to have seen a narrow offside decision go against them after Benoit Cheyrou's freekick was glanced home by the marginally-offside Gabriel Heinze, but that offered Chelsea only a mild reprieve considering Lady Luck seemingly deserting them. A more-positive result would have been a welcome boost to Ancelotti's struggling side, but with a squad bereft of twenty-goal Frank Lampard, the injured Ashley Cole, Nicolas Anelka and Alex, a lack of invention and defensive solidarity was to be expected against a side who maintain a formidable home record.

However, for all the inadequacies of the referee who certainly endured a torrid evening, Chelsea's 90 minutes was hardly anything better, and Ancelotti will be disappointed after Monday's crisis meeting to address the various problems with his injury-hit squad.

The match was thoroughly entertaining and at times end-to-end with Chelsea looking to hit the hosts on the counter-attack. After Mathieu Valbuena and Cheyrou had seen early effort fly just wide of Petr Cech's goal, the former left the orange-clad goalkeeper grasping at thin air as his raking effort left the crossbar trembling as the hosts pushed for an early goal.

In return, Drogba and Kalou had a couple of half-chances, but a lack of clear-cut opportunities was leaving most Chelsea forays forward fruitless and lacking invention. The monotonous play in midfield - that seemingly involved playing your team-mates into trouble before lashing long-balls forward for the effervescent duo of Malouda and Drogba to chase - was clearly angering the Blues' Italian coach as hopes of a sixth straight European success seemed suddenly muted.

The fact two decent penalty claims either side of half time did little to sate Ancelotti's desire for an improvement going forward, and after Kalou had wasted two decent shooting opportunities after brilliant build-up play, the Chelsea coached deemed enough to be enough and hauled off Drogba who predictably received a standing ovation from all four sides of the ground.

The arrival of Daniel Sturridge threatened to spark some sort of a Chelsea revival but after seeing an attempted chip held easily by the imperious Mandanda and a tame shot blocked by Diawara, the injection of excitement seemed only momentary. That was all Chelsea had to show for a shocking second half bar a under-hit Malouda effort that was straight at the goalkeeper. It would seem shooting practice is on the training ground to-do list.

After earlier seeing Branislav Ivanovic bravely block Valbuena's close-range effort with a stunning piece of defending, John Terry then managed to inadvertently get the ball away from the danger zone when the inside of his thigh stopped another effort from range from troubling Cech, and the Chelsea goalkeeper had to be on his toes to stop Marseille form fashioning a lead when he saved with his feet moments later.

But with Bosingwa limping off and Terry soon leaving the pitch early as Jeffrey Bruma and Patrick van Aanholt entered the fray, Chelsea's makeshift defence soon gave in to sustained Marseille pressure - but it was through sheer bad luck that they conceded. Taye Taiwo's deflected shot fell to the path of Brandão who could not miss from six yards, and duly tucked the ball into the corner to leave Chelsea demoralised.

A confidence-inducing clean sheet might have offered some sort of platform for morale following a flurry of goals conceded in recent weeks, but instead a night that was supposed to offer some answers will only pose more questions for Ancelotti and his staff as Chelsea's wobble continues.


Marseille (4-1-4-1): Mandanda; Kabore, Diawara, Heinze, Taiwo; N'Diaye (J. Ayew 85); Remy, Cheyrou, Abriel (A. Ayew 62), Valbuena (Gonzalez 62); Brandão

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa (Van Aanholt 78), Ivanovic, Terry © (Bruma 71), Cole; Essien, McEachran, Ramires; Kalou, Drogba (Sturridge 61), Malouda

The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match was Marseille's number 3, Taye Taiwo

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Your line up is incorrect.

Paulo Ferriera played and not Cole.

As for entertaining, it was frustrating much like watching England play. The only ray of light I saw was McEachran who had a good game and didn't look overawed at all. I'd give him 7/10. Bruma also did well in his short time on.

Our passing is falling short, and we seem to be hoofing the ball out of defence instead of playing it out and this usually leads to opponent posession and more often than not, another oncoming attack.

Drogba did look disinterested and even distracted.

I was also surprised at Essien's desire to squat down and have a good ol' chat with some of the Marseilles players instead of keeping with the rest of the team as they walked off.

What a depressing performance. I'm almost in fear of the scoreline on Sunday.

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Good report like always mate.

Cech - 5/10

Bosingwa - 4/10

JT - 5.5/10

Ivan - 5.5/10

Ferreira - 4/10

Josh - 7/10

Ramires - 4.5/10

Essien - 5/10

Malouda - 4.5/10

Kalou - 4.5/10

Drogba - 3/10

Slightly generous.

I gave the lot a 2. Josh got a 5/6.

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Overreacting too much? Didn't watch the game but I can hardly imagine Cech JT and Bran being worse than 6/10.

True. They were a 6.5 at best. They did leave a lot of gaps in the box though, but their closing down play was sharp which led Marseille to try and shoot from long range most the time.

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Kalou did nothing wrong for me, easily our best player after McEachran and Ivanovic. Kept trying throughout, you simply cannot fault the man's effort and commitment (take note, Didier). Okay he missed a couple of chances but he should have won us a penalty and at least he resembled something close to a player with attacking intent!

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