Apoel add to Ancelotti jitters

Chelsea 2 Apoel Nicosia 2
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The Independent Football

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.