Drogba ankle injury drives stake into Chelsea's season

CFR Cluj 0 Chelsea 0
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No goals in Transylvania. But another horror show. Didier Drogba was carried off last night with suspected ligament damage to his right knee and, possibly, although as yet unconfirmed, a fracture to his ankle after crumbling under an innocuous looking challenge. If the early fears are realised – and he was being X-rayed after the match and will undergo scans today – then it is a hammer blow to Chelsea's ambitions this season.

Injuries are piling up. It is a real crisis now. A real drama. No hammed-up construct. Drogba is added to Deco, Ricardo Carvalho, Joe Cole and, of course, Michael Essien as being ruled out. Chelsea also lost Ashley Cole, with a back strain, prior to kick-off with manager Luiz Felipe Scolari also declaring that both John Terry and Alex played most of the game injured.

Terry, once more, was feeling his back – a worrying recurrence for club and country – while Alex had a buttock strain. Scolari will pray all three defenders are able to come through quickly. Terry certainly felt he would make it. "What can I say?" said Scolari shrugging his shoulders at the result, the performance and the aftermath. "I'm happy with one point because Didier is out. Terry played, after 15 minutes, with problems. Alex played, after 15 minutes, with problems. It's difficult to play like this but we know we didn't play well. I have four or five days to build a team again. I don't know what the possibilities are for Sunday." Then Chelsea host third-placed Aston Villa and having failed to score for the first time this season last night, as they faced the vibrant, tricky Romanian champions, Scolari's resources are desperately stretched.

Cluj had the appetite to cause another upset having beaten Roma – in Italy – in their first ever Champions League tie. In the end, and partly through an alert save by Petr Cech, they were denied victory but their supporters celebrated wildly as if one had been achieved all the same. Chelsea were not exactly clueless in Cluj but they were non-plussed at times. In a land of mystery, they certainly did not have all the answers in Group A even if they still sit at its summit.

Chelsea had been all but deified since their arrival. In the warm-up the cameras picked out Drogba and then played a slow-motion replay of the Ivorian as he prepared for what was his first appearance in this competition since his slap at Nemanja Vidic in last season's final. Cluj's fans were pinching themselves. Their team has come a long way quickly and, having spent 88 of their 101 years outside the top division, to win the league and cup last season was some achievement.

Minutes before the match started a rumble swept around the ground, as the supporters stamped their feet in unison. It sounded like the noise of a train passing by, all the more appropriate given the club developed out of its railways links, with a train coming through a tunnel the main element on the crest. It was the tempo Cluj wanted to set and for all Chelsea's efforts to slow it down, which was hampered by their poor passing, they were suckered into being hit on the counter-attack by a team that Scolari had warned played more like South Americans than Eastern Europeans.

Terry, maybe partly because of his back problems, found the powerful, raw-boned Yssouf Kone, who had been at Rosenborg last season when they drew at Stamford Bridge in Jose Mourinho's last game in charge, a handful throughout but it took time for Cluj to really believe. When they did they shot wide and high at Cech's goal before Jose Bosingwa had to be alert to stop the impressive Alvaro Perreira as he worked his way through and Gabriel Muresan attempted to catch out Cech with a quick, driven free-kick. The goalkeeper held on.

Scolari withdrew the ineffective Salomon Kalou, replacing him at half-time with the more aggressive Nicolas Anelka who immediately made a difference. He crossed for Frank Lampard, a far more polished presence than Michael Ballack, who would have scored but for Cadu's block before Drogba attempted to reach Florent Malouda's centre, was beaten to it by De Sousa, but remained lying on the turf. The rutted pitch may have contributed to his injury, his studs appeared to catch in the grass. If it is ligament damage alone it will cost him four to eight weeks of the season.

Cluj began to tire. They retreated to the edge of the area as Chelsea piled on the pressure and, with his first touch, Franco di Santo headed fractionally wide. But then the home side rallied. Cech had to react quickly to deny Kone before Eugen Trica tricked his way into space for another shot that whistled too close to goal. It became increasingly tense and a clever, instant lob forward by Lampard, who later struck a snap-shot wide, found Juliano Belletti whose first touch was fine but he then drove over when he should have steadied himself.

Pereira again burst through only for Cech to palm away his powerful shot and preserve parity. Nevertheless Chelsea came away with much to contemplate; much to fear; much to be concerned about.

CFR Cluj (4-2-3-1): Stancioiu; Tony, Cadu, De Sousa, Pereira; Dani, Muresan; Dubarbier, Trica (Didi 88), Culio; Y Kone. Substitutes not used: Claro (gk), Panin, Alcantara, Deac, E Kone, Ruiz.

Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, Bridge; Mikel; Kalou (Anelka h-t), Ballack, Lampard, Malouda (Di Santo 74); Drogba (Belletti 57). Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Ivanovic, Ferreira, Stoch.

Referee: F Meyer (Germany).

Group A

Results: Chelsea 4 Bordeaux 0; Roma 1 CFR Cluj 2; CFR Cluj 0 Chelsea 0; Bordeaux 1 Roma 3.

Chelsea's remaining group fixtures: 22 Oct: Roma (h); 4 Nov: Roma (a); 26 Nov: Bordeaux (a); 9 Dec: CFR Cluj (h).

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