Maribor vs Chelsea match report: Slovenians hold on for famous point as Eden Hazard misses late penalty

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The Independent Football

There was precious little for Chelsea fans to sing about last night as their heroes produced their worst performance of the season in Slovenia. With Sporting Lisbon beating Schalke 04 victory would have booked Chelsea’s place in the knockout stages but they were unable to beat a team they thrashed a fortnight ago.

With Sporting Lisbon beating Schalke 04 victory would have booked Chelsea’s place in the knock-out stages but instead they were grateful not to suffer an embarrassing defeat against a team which has never won a home Champions League tie.

Maribor stunned Chelsea with a 47th-minute goal and could easily have doubled their lead before Nemanja Matic levelled. Chelsea, working much harder than they wanted to with Saturday’s lunchtime kick-off at Anfield looming, should then have won the match but a Diego Costa goal was wrongly chalked off, then Eden Hazard missed a late penalty. Chelsea now go to Schalke, to face former manager Robbie Di Matteo, still needing at least one more point, possibly more.

While Brendan Rodgers sent out his Capital One Cup side at the Bernabeu against Real Madrid on Tuesday Jose Mourinho fielded a strong XI. Prior to the match he said he felt teams like Chelsea should play a recognisable team as they had a responsibility to supporters in countries such as Slovenia which rarely host Champions League ties. Indeed, this is the first time a Slovenian club has made the group stages since Maribor in 1999. He was as good as his word selecting stars such as Eden Hazard, John Terry, Cesc Fabregas and Didier Drogba.

The latter was one of two changes from the team which defeated Maribor 6-0 at Stamford Bridge last month. The Ivorian replaced the injured Loic Remy, as he did on the night, Andre Schurrle came in for Oscar.

Maribor made three changes from that drubbing with the most interesting inclusion being Luka Zahovic, 18-year-old is the son of Zlatko, Slovenia’s greatest player post-independence, and now Maribor’s general manager. Luka is top scorer in Slovenia’s PrvaLiga but did did not have much opportunity to shine in the early stages as Chelsea took swift control. Kurt Zouma headed over after seven minutes, Drogba brought a good save from Jasmin Handanovic after ten, and it seemed just a matter of time.

But then Tavares burst past Matic and John Terry to bear down on goal. Zouma came across and although he failed to gain possession his tackle forced Tavares to slightly over-hit his pass to Zahovic who should have been handed a tap-in. Instead the youngster had to pull the ball back to Sintayehu Sallalich whose weak but goalbound shot was cleared by Zouma.

The near-miss gave Maribor confidence and also seemed to knock Chelsea out of their stride. Cech had to save long-range shots from Sallalich and Zeljko Filipovic as the game became more even. Willian, playing in the attacking central position usually filled by Oscar, was busy but, as usual, it was Hazard who looked most likely to break the deadlock. Drogba tested Handanovic from a free-kick won by the Belgian, then he brought a scrambling save from the ‘keeper himself. Otherwise, however, Chelsea were too narrow with even the full-backs coming inside, their passing was also uncommonly poor, notably Fabregas and Drogba. 

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Nemanja Matic celebrates his equaliser

With the game meandering the travelling support - reacting to Mourinho’s criticism of the Stamford Bridge volume levels - chanted ‘sing up Mourinho’ followed by ‘Jose, Jose, give us a song.’ Minutes later the half-time whistle blew and Mourinho stalked across the pitch towards the dressing room. He looked as if he was about to raise his voice to his players, but not in song.

When Chelsea re-emerged Diego Costa and Oscar were stripped for action. Schurrle, who had been especially poor, came off, along with Willian as Mourinho went to 4-4-2.

However, it was the hosts who transformed the game. Zouma headed away a cross, it fell to Agim Ibraimi, who took his time - aided by no sign of Hazard or Felipe Luis marking him - and curled a shot inside the far post. The ultras behind the goal at the river end went wild.

Mourinho responded by bringing on Ramires to play on the right flank, switching Branislav Ivanovic to the left, and effectively playing without a right-back. That nearly led to a second on 55 minutes as Mitja Viler galloped into the empty space and delivered a cross that Zahovic somehow failed to turn in at the far post.

Costa, set up by Hazard, had already shot over, and a Drogba header then flashed wide, but Chelsea were otherwise struggling to create clear chances. Then they won a corner and before they could take it Maribor coach Ante Simndza made a substitution. Maybe that broke his team’s concentration as John Terry was able to head the corner goalwards with Matic stabbing the ball over the line. 

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Eden Hazard sees his late penalty saved

The game was now high-tempo as Chelsea pressed for a winner and Maribor looked to counter-attack. Hazard at one end, and Tavares at the other, both missed good chances to put their team ahead. In between Handanovic made a fine save from Costa’s volley and Costa had what seemed a good goal disallowed.

The officials were already out of favour with Chelsea having turned down a penalty appeal when Oscar appeared to be tripped, but the Italian referee finally awarded a spot-kick when Viler brought down Hazard with five minutes left. The Belgian tried his usual delay technique, but Handanovic outfoxed him and saved.

Urged on by their disbelieving supporters Maribor held on for what will be recalled in these parts as a famous night, but one which will want to be quickly forgotten by Chelsea.

Maribor: Handanovic, Vler, Arghus, Rajcevic, Stojanovic, Sallaich, Filipovic, Mertelj, Ibraimi, Zahovic, Tavares

Substitutions: Mendy (Zahovic, 73), Bohar (Ibraimi, 90), N’Diaye (Sallalich, 90);

Chelsea:  Cech, Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Filipe Luis, Fabregas, Matic, Schurrle, Willian, Hazard, Drogba.

Substitutions: Oscar (Willian, 45), Costa (Schurrle, 45), Ramires (Luis, 56);

Booked: Maribor Stojanovic, Filipovic, Viler Chelsea Luis

Man of match Tavares

Match rating 8/10.

Possession: Maribor 36% Chelsea 64%.

Referee D Orsato (Italy)

Attendance 12,500.

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