Apoel add to Ancelotti jitters

Chelsea 2 Apoel Nicosia 2

Carlo Ancelotti is rapidly finding out that managing Chelsea is not quite so easy after all. The Italian had a face like fury after his team conceded a late equaliser to Cypriot side Apoel Nicosia. He didn't mince his words either after seeing his Chelsea team follow defeats to Blackburn and Manchester City with a tame draw against possibly the worst team in this season's Champions League.

"Too soft," he said. "It's a psychological thing," he added. This describing the team that only nine days earlier had been hailed as virtual champions after they bullied poor Arsenal and came away from the Emirates with an emphatic 3-0 victory.

Ancelotti's fury was understandable. Chelsea dominated the game, scored twice, had two goals struck off by the referee Matteo Trefoloni and hit the bar, yet they still allowed the substitute Nenad Mirosavljevic to sneak a late equaliser to send the 3,000 Cypriot fans inside Stamford Bridge into wild celebration.

The Italian said: "This was the poorest we have played this season. It was not a good evening. In the second half we lost intensity, we lost concentration, we played too slowly and too soft. For this, I'm not happy. I'm unhappy because we have to play 90 minutes with intensity and concentration. It's not important about the result. It's important to play our best every game. Tonight was not like you want. It's right that Apoel drew the game."

Ancelotti, however, has to take his share of the blame, as his policy of rotating his players had some part to play in the disappointing result. He made seven changes from the side that lost 2-1 to Manchester City on Saturday, giving starting debuts to the midfield prodigy Gaël Kakuta and goalkeeper Ross Turnbull.

The Italian's rotation policy has seen him use 29 players this season. It was little wonder, then, that Chelsea began the match playing like strangers.

In recent weeks Ancelotti has been likened to his predecessors as manager – Luiz Felipe Scolari when Chelsea lose and Special One Jose Mourinho when they win. But increasingly he is coming to resemble his fellow countryman Claudio Ranieri with his desire to chop and change his side from one game to the next.

The performance of Kakuta, who was bright and inventive throughout, shone on a disappointing night for Chelsea. His touch was superb, and his confidence had clearly survived the embarrassment of missing the vital penalty in last week's shootout at Blackburn in the Carling Cup quarter-final.

It was his vision that was the most impressive component of his game, far greater than would perhaps be expected of one so young. Kakuta has the happy knack of making the right decision, playing the right ball, even when in the tightest of situations.

"Kakuta is the only one good thing for tonight," Ancelotti said. "He played well. He showed his talent, did some fantastic passes and one for the second goal. We have to look at him, stay calm, but I think he will be the future of Chelsea."

Chelsea started poorly. The back four were guilty of ball-watching in the sixth minute when Marcin Zewlakow received a cross from Constantinos Charalambides and scored at Turnbull's near post. The travelling fans, decked out in luminous orange shirts, went mad. In contrast the home supporters were silent, it being the first goal Chelsea had conceded at Stamford Bridge for a remarkable 968 minutes, since Hull's Stephen Hunt scored on the opening day of the season.

Apoel's strike served only to rouse Chelsea from their slumber. Joe Cole's header was ruled offside, but Michael Essien's strike from nearly 30 yards pulled them level.

Sadly for Essien, the Ghanaian was forced to limp out of the contest four minutes later with a hamstring injury which will rule him out of Saturday's match with Everton. Yuri Zhirkov then set up Didier Drogba to put Chelsea ahead in the 26th minute and the Premier League leaders should have gone on to score a couple more.

But it never quite happened. Joe Cole hit the bar with a speculative effort and John Terry had a goal disallowed for offside, but by and large Chelsea failed to threaten the Apoel goal. Their punishment came with three minutes left. John Obi Mikel tried to pass to Terry and substitute Mirosavljevic intercepted the ball before firing it past Turnbull in the Chelsea goal. Mikel hung his head in shame as Apoel players celebrated in front of their joyous supporters. Chelsea must show a vast improvement come on Saturday.

Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Turnbull; Belletti, Carvalho, Terry, Zhirkov; Essien (Lampard, 26), Mikel; Kakuta (Borini, 73), J Cole, Malouda; Drogba. Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Ivanovic, Anelka, Bruma, Philliskirk

Apoel Nicosia (4-5-1): Chiotis; Poursaitides, Paulo Jorge, Broerse, Haxhi (Elia, 34); Kosowski (Mirosavljevic, 71), Michail, Pinto, Morais, Charalambides; Zewlakow (Breska, 82). Substitutes not used: Kissas (gk), Papathanasiou, Satsias, Elia, Paulista.

Referee: M Trefoloni (Italy).

Group D

Results: Chelsea 1 Porto 0, Atletico Madrid 0 Apoel Nicosia 0; Porto 2 Atletico Madrid 0, Apoel Nicosia 0 Chelsea 1; Porto 2 Apoel Nicosia 1, Chelsea 4 Atletico Madrid 0; Apoel Nicosia 0 Porto 1, Atletico Madrid 2 Chelsea 2; Apoel Nicosia 1 Atletico Madrid 1, Porto 0 Chelsea 1; Atletico Madrid 0 Porto 3, Chelsea 2 Apoel Nicosia 2.

Chelsea's possible round of 16 opponents: Bayern Munich, CSKA Moscow, Milan, Fiorentina/Lyons, Barcelona/ Internazionale/Rubin Kazan/Dynamo Kiev, Seville/Unirea Urziceni/Stuttgart, Olympiakos/Standard Liège.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'