Diarra thwarts Chelsea progress
Bordeaux 1 Chelsea 1
Cahal Milmo is the chief reporter of The Independent and has been with the paper since 2000. He was born in London and previously worked at the Press Association news agency. He has reported on assignment at home and abroad, including Rwanda, Sudan and Burkina Faso, the phone hacking scandal and the London Olympics. In his spare time he is a keen runner and cyclist, and keeps an allotment.
Thursday 27 November 2008
However easy Luiz Felipe Scolari made this Chelsea manager's job look when he took over at the club in the summer, it is not looking anywhere near as simple now. Frank Lampard was sent off last night, a lead was squandered and now qualification for the next round of the Champions League comes down to an awkward home game against CFR Cluj next month.
Chelsea, who are now without an away win in Europe for a year, need to win at Stamford Bridge against the Romanian champions on 9 December to be sure but the way the boat is rocking at the moment nothing is completely certain for Scolari's team. They took the lead through Nicolas Anelka last night but they were never totally in control and when Bordeaux's captain Alou Diarra headed the equaliser it was no surprise. What is hard to comprehend is how quickly the Chelsea project, undertaken with such brio by Scolari this season is starting to look ragged.
They are the only one of the four English sides in the Champions League who have not already shored up qualification and the incoherence on the pitch is starting to reflect the uncertainty off it. Didier Drogba unwisely sounded off before last night's game about his miserable six months, chief scout Frank Arnesen is on his way out the door because of Roman Abramovich's cutbacks at the club. It does not seem a coincidence that things are starting to look tricky on the pitch, too.
It is rare for a player with Lampard's cunning to find himself sent off for what amounted to two clumsy tackles and he will miss the Cluj game at Stamford Bridge. Scolari said it should be a formality for Chelsea but even this is not certain.
John Terry would have to admit that after his heroics for England one week earlier this was far from his best performance, in fact it was him who allowed Diarra to rise unchallenged to head the ball in at Petr Cech's near post with seven minutes to go. Joe Cole struggled to have an impact on the game and an ankle injury means he is 50-50 to play Arsenal on Sunday. The wing-back style of rampaging full-backs that Scolari made his trademark earlier in the season was easily nullified by Bordeaux.
The sixth-placed team in the French championship made Chelsea look pretty ordinary having been completely blown away by them in west London in September. Laurent Blanc's team were simply quicker in the tackle, more solid in midfield and were not afraid to mix it up when the situation required. The Chelsea of old — let's be honest, even the Chelsea of Avram Grant last season — would have ground Bordeaux's kids into the dust having taken a lead but they are not so solid this time around.
They are still yet to win away in the Champions League this season and at times last night they were kept in the game by Cech's saves. Drogba's arrival in the game, after the hour when Anelka came off, did not elicit any reaction from the travelling support.
It seemed incredible that the first-half possession count gave 56 per cent in Chelsea's favour because they did not manage a shot on target before the break and only two after it. By contrast, Mathieu Chalmé and Yoan Gourcuff forced excellent full-length saves from Cech in the first half and the frustration began to tell among the visitors' players as Terry, Lampard and Ashley Cole all went into the Belgian referee's book within the space of eight minutes.
This kind of frailty will do them no good against Arsenal who, for the first time in a while, can at least take heart that one of their nearest rivals is starting to look as flaky as them. Anelka's goal was made by Lampard's quick-thinking. He played the ball first time through a momentary gap in the Bordeaux defence and Anelka took his own sweet time as he bore down on Matthieu Valverde's goal. He beat the goalkeeper at his left-hand post as two Bordeaux defenders converged on him.
The goal was Anelka's 14th of the season and arguably his most important yet. Chelsea never quite settled. Terry was too easily beaten when Yoan Gouffran cut in from the right wing and, with the Chelsea captain on a yellow card, he was reluctant to commit himself to the tackle. After Diarra headed in from Fernando Cavenaghi's corner, Chelsea were struggling.
More pain followed when Lampard was late in the tackle once again on Fernando and was given a red card but only after the referee Frank de Bleeckere had taken a long time to work out he had booked him earlier. Michael Ballack scrambled away a late deflected shot as Chelsea left France chastened and probably wondering what Sunday might hold for them.
Bordeaux (4-2-3-1): Valverde; Chalmé, Diawara, Planus, Jurietti; Fernando, Diarra; Gouffran (Cavenaghi, 67), Gourcuff, Wendel (Obertan, 76); Chamakh. Substitutes not used: Olimpa (gk), Bellion, Placente, Traoré, Tremoulinas.
Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Terry, Alex, A Cole; Mikel; Malouda, Lampard, Ballack, J Cole (Ferreira, 85); Anelka (Drogba, 63). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Bridge, Kalou, Alex, Stoch.
Referee: F De Bleeckere (Belgium).
Results: Chelsea 4 Bordeaux 0, Roma 1 CFR Cluj 2; Bordeaux 1 Roma 3, CFR Cluj 0 Chelsea 0; Bordeaux 1 CFR Cluj 0, Chelsea 1 Roma 0; CFR Cluj 1 Bordeaux 2, Roma 3 Chelsea 1; Bordeaux 1 Chelsea 1; CFR Cluj 1 Roma 3.
Remaining fixtures: 9 Dec: Chelsea v CFR Cluj, Roma v Bordeaux.
Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes
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