Mateja Kezman, Fenerbahce's former Chelsea striker, last night added to the pressure on Avram Grant. The Serb said that if Jose Mourinho was still manager, his old team would not have collapsed as they did in Istanbul on Wednesday night.
Having been 1-0 up and dominant, Chelsea lost 2-1 in the Sukru Saracoglu. Kezman, who was bought and, after one season at Stamford Bridge, sold by Mourinho, said: "Chelsea without Mourinho are not the same. Under him, they were a machine. There were no surprises, no mistakes. Everything worked fantastically. Now they have ups and downs. We've watched the last couple of games and against Middlesbrough and Sunderland they made four or five mistakes.
"There's not the same spirit in the team any more. There are rows at training. It's not the machine it used to be. You can see that something is not working. If [Frank] Lampard goes out of the game after 75 minutes it means something is wrong. If Mourinho had been in charge of this match of course it would've been different. He is a very different coach."
There will be agreement with Kezman but it is harsh to blame Grant. First-half supremacy suggested he picked the right team and until Colin Kazim-Richards' 64th-minute goal there appeared only one winner. As at Barnsley in the FA Cup the blame belongs more with the players.
There is a second chance, but the second-leg, on Tuesday, will be no stroll. Fenerbahce have a poor away record but in the previous round, defending a one-goal lead, they recovered from two early goals in Seville to force extra-time before going through on penalties.
"[Wednesday] was our worst performance in the Champions League, yet we managed to beat one of the greatest teams," said the Brazilian midfielder Alex. "We've got the lead and I'm sure we can finish the job," said Kazim-Richards.
"We showed we can compete with Chelsea," said Kezman. "Why shouldn't we believe in ourselves? With this team and spirit anything is possible."
Team spirit is an area Grant may need to address, given Lampard's petulance upon being substituted. Lampard, who had been ill, refused to comment on the match. The midfielder's contract remains a live issue. His current deal expires next summer and talks have been put on hold.Reuse content