Chelsea 1-0 Juventus: Drogba Draws First Blood, Bianconeri Still Hopeful (UEFA Champions League Round of 16, First Leg)

UEFA Champions League 2008-09 - Chelsea vs. Juventus

Usually, even the most skilled of managers are incapable of turning a team upside down in a matter of days. And yet, Chelsea victory over Juventus in the Round of 16′s first leg of UEFA Champions League playoffs bears a big mark from the “Goose”.

His secret in two words? Didier Drogba. A lost soul during the Scolari era, the Ivorian international took inspiration from the Dutchman’s arrival and retrieved a confidence and goalscoring form which seemed to have been lost, carrying the Blues & his new manager to a valuable 1-0 victory at home. For Juve this is a scoreline which gives as much hope as it instills fear, for the second leg may be a tricky affair indeed: qualification is still within reach, but let Chelsea score in Turin and it’s bye bye Europe.

Chelsea's Didier Drogba (L) challenges Juventus' Olof Mellberg during their Champions League soccer match at Stamford Bridge in London February 25, 2009. (REUTERS)

UEFA Champions League 2008-09 - Round of 16, First Leg - Chelsea 1-0 Juventus

Tactically, Ranieri started off his team pretty much as expected, with ADP-Amauri up front and Tiago (not Marchisio) alongside Sissoko in midfield. Mellberg occupied the right-back position. On the other end, Hiddink confirmed the tactical indications that had transpired from Chelsea’s match vs. Birmingham: three-man attacking force, with Anelka wide on the left, Kalou on the right, and big Didier up top to provide the striking weight.

To say Juve got off to a bad start would be putting things lightly, and unfortunately this was soccer, not track & field (where judges can give you a pass once). In soccer, false starts have consequences and the Bianconeri paid those with a goal, but first things first. The first 20 minutes saw Chelsea dictate law on the field: Kalou was roaming free on the right wing as he pleased (constantly giving problems to Molinaro), Lampard & Ballack had solidly occupied the midfield (preventing Tiago of doing pretty much anything), and Drogba was popping up everywhere.

Chelsea's Didier Drogba, centre, shoots the ball to score, during the Champions League round of 16 first leg soccer match between Chelsea and Juventus at Stamford Bridge stadium in London, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009.

It should come as no surprise to read the Ivorian striker put his name on Chelsea’s first two good scoring attempts (diving header over the bar from a cross by Bosingwa, then non-penalty call for a tussle with Molinaro), eventually converting the third after a good pass from Kalou. On the latter chance, Juve’s offside trap didn’t work and left Drogba with an unmissable chance in front of the net. 1-0 Chelsea.

Drogba could have made it two with yet another header from the right, and the Blues’ tidal wave looked like it might sweep a stunned Juve away: the Bianconeri were giving their opponents a total monopoly of ball possession, and it took a great show of character by captain Alessandro Del Piero to finally wake them up. Receiving a through ball from Tiago (one of his lone contributions of the night), the Juventus forward slammed a powerful shot towards the second post forcing Cech to a great save.

ADP’s chance was the jolt Juve needed: the Bianconeri gained pace up the field, eventually closing the half on even terms with the Blues and reassuring everyone that this game was far from over. That is when the injury imp showed his face again, taking Camoranesi away on a muscle strain and forcing Ranieri to bring Marco Marchionni in. So what else is new? :(

Chelsea's midfielder Frank Lampard (L) fights for the ball with Juventus Czech midfielder Pavel Nedved during their Champions League first knockout round football match, at Stamford Bridge stadium in London on February 25, 2009. (AFP/Getty Images)

On the positive side, Juve started finally to control possession & tempo in the second half: Chelsea had loosened their grip on the game, the Bianconeri faithful were now actively making their voices heard from the Stamford Bridge stands. Marchionni had a good attempt with a left-footed shot only inches too high, all the while Sissoko & Marchisio (on for Tiago) provided some physical & attacking thrust in central midfield. Scoring chances were still hard to come by however.

In the final 10 minutes Ranieri brought his golden Frenchman on, replacing Sissoko with David Trezeguet, and the Juve striker immediately obtained a great chance on his second touch of the ball (brilliant pass by ADP) but couldn’t apply a proper finish. On the other end Anelka tried to inject some life into a dull performance with a powerful right-footer, just inches away of the left post.

With literally seconds left, Juve made one final attempt on target with a roaming shot by Pavel Nedved (deflected inches wide by a Chelsea defender), but it was not to be. Chelsea won the first round without being able to deliver the knockout punch. The return leg in Turin promises to be quite an exciting match.

Juventus' Alessandro Del Piero wipes his face during their Champions League soccer match against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in London February 25, 2009. (REUTERS)


 Chelsea F.C.
[Match Highlights]
Juventus F.C.
GOALSCORERS: 12’ Drogba (C).
CHELSEA (4-3-3): Cech – Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, A.Cole – Ballack (81’ Mancienne), Mikel, Lampard – S.Kalou (72’ Malouda), Drogba, Anelka. (bench: Hilario, Ivanovic, P.Ferreira, Di Santo, Stoch). Coach: Hiddink.
JUVENTUS (4-4-2): Buffon – Mellberg, Legrottaglie, Chiellini, Molinaro – Camoranesi (52’ Marchionni), Sissoko (86’ Trezeguet), Tiago (62’ Marchisio), Nedved – Amauri, Del Piero. (bench: Manninger, Grygera, Poulsen, Iaquinta). Coach: Ranieri.


Tags: , , , , ,

Posted in English Premiership, Juventus, UEFA Champions League |

Related Posts:

  • Make or Break Time for Serie A Teams (UEFA Champions League R16 Return Legs Preview)
  • Juventus 2-2 Chelsea: Bianconeri Fighting Spirit Not Enough, Blues Qualify for Quarters (UEFA Champions League Round of 16, Second Leg)
  • Champions League Preview: Chelsea vs. Juventus
  • Could Zlatan Ibrahimovic leave the Nerazzurri?
  • UEFA Champions League PLAYOFFS Draw (2008-09): It’s Serie A vs. Premier League…
  • Comments are closed.