Champions League review: Chelsea 1 – 1 Valencia

Match reports

Daily Telegraph, John Ley: “Didier Drogba claimed the 30th and, incontrovertibly, most important goal of his season as Chelsea recovered from a listless first half and an early goal to claim a draw that keeps alive their hopes of reaching their third Champions League semi-final in four years.”

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “This season has become a convoluted, engrossing mystery for Chelsea and there were scant clues in this game as to the revelations to come in the return leg next Tuesday. True, Valencia foresee triumph now that they hold an away goal, but that could still turn out to be a red herring. Jose Mourinho’s side, after all, merited their 2-2 draw in Barcelona earlier this season and would go through if it were repeated at the Mestalla.”

The Times, Matt Dickinson: “There was only one team pressing for the win but, lacking attacking fluency, even after Joe Cole and Shaun Wright-Phillips were introduced, Chelsea had to settle for a 1-1 draw that prompted celebrations among the away fans at the final whistle.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “With Mourinho, you never know whether a performance to change this tie will be summoned from somewhere but they have to score at least one in Spain. Against Watford on Saturday they pulled off something remarkable right at the death, although repeating the feat against a side of Valencia’s quality will be quite another matter.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “At the final whistle there were neither signs of dejection from Chelsea nor signs of celebration from the visitors, save a few of their orange-clad following – a sure sign there is plenty of football still left to be played in this tie.”

The goals

The good

  1. The second half performance. What is it with us? Why do we seem to need to concede a goal before we really turn the screw on visiting teams? The second half saw us dominate possession, but like we did against Watford we only produced a handful of half chances. However, we didn’t lose and that gives us some hope against a team that are as tight at home as we are.
  2. Joe Cole. In all honesty he looked well short of match fitness, his control was a bit off, his pace a yard too slow but his eagerness was there for all to see, and tempered a little. The old Joe Cole would have come out guns blazing, given away possession or got a yellow card. This version seems to be more wary and perhaps he could have a chat with Wayne Rooney about keeping calm when the expectation levels are crushing. The crowd gave him one hell of a rousing welcome back. Welcome back, Joe… altogether now… “He’s here, he’s there, he’s every f**king where Joey Cole!”.
  3. Alan Parry. Surely now Sky’s best commentator? Reserved when required, refreshingly unbiased and refreshingly not anti-Chelsea unlike the rest of his Sky cohorts. Teamed with the imperious Gary McAllister and Jeff Stelling in the studio, and with the marvellous Ian Darke getting more prime matches Sky may just be able to redeem themselves from the hideous Tyler/Gray “anyone in red” love-in paraded each week. By the way, I learn that Jeff lives in my village – come and have a pint at The Bat and Ball, Jeff, you’ll never have to dip into your pocket there mate!
  4. Didier Drogba. I’m almost bored with praising him now. Sort of. He got caught offside a few times as Valencia pushed forward to play the trap, but on at least two occasions he was onside and therefore unlucky. He bagged a real poacher’s goal as well showing yet another side to his impressive talents. I think he’d have to steal my car, shag my wife and nick my pint to lose my vote as player of the season. Mind you, as it’s him I probably wouldn’t mind anyway.
  5. The Valencia goal. Sometimes you have to stand back and gawp in amazement and appreciation when such a sweet strike hits the net. Even when it’s against you! A truly stunning goal and the sort that you cannot defend against and no goalkeeper would ever have got near. Hell… two keepers wouldn’t have got near that.
  6. A special mention for the youngsters. John Obi Mikel, who is so comfortable on the ball and so calm in possession he is beginning to make the fee we paid look like a real snip. Lassana Diarra is looking like the Dog’s Jacobs at right-back and frankly if he’s fit then Paulo Ferreira and Geremi should forget the rest of this season. I think that next year with him and Glen Johnson or Micah Richards fighting for the place and the left-back position being fought for by the best two in England, our defence will be tighter than Dawn French’s bra strap.

The bad

  1. Conceding an way goal. It’s a bloody crap rule and one that doesn’t encourage attacking football. I’d rather they found another differentiator over two legs. Any suggestions? Having said that, if you’re going to concede then it might as well be a stunner like this one.
  2. Roberto Ayala. A thug. He should have been booked at the least for his karate chop on Andriy Shevchenko in the first half. I think he knew what he was doing and what he could get away with.
  3. Frank Lampard. Something has to be wrong here. His confidence looks shot. His passing is more off beam than ever and he just seems to be out of sorts. I think the crap he’s taking from the press about England is affecting him. Here’s my suggestion… quit playing for England. Like Nick I have become totally ambivalent about England and the press reporting that Steven Gerrard can do no wrong, whilst Frank can do no right. They must have been gutted to not be able to blame Frank for the atrocious Andorra display. Look at Paul Scholes, Frank, and follow his path. England can apparently do without you because Super Stevie is there. We, however, need you back to your best for this season and a few more.

Player ratings

  • Petr Cech: Not much to do again. Had no chance with the goal – 7/10
  • Lassana Diarra: Steady performance, looking more assured at right-back than any of our… ahem… proper right-backs – 7/10
  • Ricardo Carvalho: Was there any part of the pitch he didn’t cover. Am I the only one who sees genius in this man? – 8/10
  • Ashley Cole: Still gets exposed as a defender, but seemed to appreciate Joe Cole being there, as he does Arjen Robben – 7/10
  • John Terry: Bloody marvellous, bloody fantastic, bloody Chelsea through and through – 8/10
  • Frank Lampard: Our worst player and looking like he needs a break – 4/10
  • John Obi Mikel: Simply brilliant and ready-made for the Claude Makelele role. Unlucky to be subbed – 8/10
  • Michael Ballack: I watched him carefully. This sort of game seems to suit him – 7/10
  • Andriy Shevchenko: Worked tirelessly and actually is starting to emulate Mark Hughes with his ability to hold and distribute the ball. High praise indeed – 7/10
  • Didier Drogba: Showed some great touches, intelligent runs, strong tackles and good passes. Got us out of jail again – 8.5/10
  • Salomon Kalou: Gets better with each game. Suffers from the odd bad decision but was unlucky not to score when he hit the post – 8/10
  • Shaun Wright-Phillips (sub): Didn’t have time to do much, but for once didn’t keep running the ball out of play. I had written him off but he seems determined to hang on in there – 7/10
  • Joe Cole (sub): Didn’t do much and looked off the pace, but… it’s just so good to see him back on the pitch – 6/10

Man of the Match

A tough call as a few players really dug in and showed spirit. However, one man keeps scoring goals, keeps fighting for the badge and whilst The Greasy Diving Cheat Cristiano Ronaldo bends over and accepts the collective man-love of the press, our Didier just keeps doing the business. Didier Drogba, you got us out of the smelly brown stuff so take a bow… again.

Final thoughts

This is not as bad a result as we might first think. Valencia are a good side and I’d argue we had the toughest draw of all the English teams. Their goal was magnificent and any football fan would love to see that type of goal go for their team. That’s why it’s called The Beautiful Game. However, we now know we have to score at their ground or we’re out. A tough call because their home record is excellent in their domestic league and even better in the Champions League, especially against Premiership teams. We can’t play cagey and we have to go at them. What we mustn’t do is turn in a performance like we did last year against Barcelona. I’d rather we went down 3-0 whilst chucking everything at Valencia than go out on a tame 0-0 draw. I think we’re more likely to see a performance like the one against Barca at Stamford Bridge when we beat them 4-2. It’s a big prize and I’d love to meet The Liverpool Redskins as we owe them big time in cup competitions.

Another plus is no injuries and the prospect of Michael Essien being back and a fitter Joe Cole ready to be used. It’s when you start rattling these off as injured players returning that you realise just how badly we’ve suffered this year.

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