Chelsea keep powder dry for bigger battles

Chelsea 0 - Paris St-Germain 0
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Motivation had been the pre-match buzzword and, although no one could accuse Chelsea of going through the motions, this was simulated football nevertheless. Qualifying for the knock-out stages of the Champions' League three weeks ago dictated that. In drawing with Paris St-Germain, Chelsea punctured their perfect record - following on from their four victories - but they know there are bigger battles to come. This one can be filed away as nothing more than fulfilling a necessary commitment.

Motivation had been the pre-match buzzword and, although no one could accuse Chelsea of going through the motions, this was simulated football nevertheless. Qualifying for the knock-out stages of the Champions' League three weeks ago dictated that. In drawing with Paris St-Germain, Chelsea punctured their perfect record - following on from their four victories - but they know there are bigger battles to come. This one can be filed away as nothing more than fulfilling a necessary commitment.

There will be some concern, however, that an old accusation came back to haunt them. For all the energy of their approach play, Chelsea severely lacked a cutting edge against a French side who knew that a draw was enough to nudge them into second place in the group and keep their destiny in their own hands.

Whatever constitutes Chelsea's strongest XI is a moot point, although under Jose Mourinho the preferences have become clearer. He had said that "two or three" would get a rest, with the fixtures ahead and this group won at a canter. In the event he omitted nearer five or six.

Among them was the captain, John Terry (sore neck), although Frank Lampard took the armband instead and again started.

Chelsea had the luxury of not being concerned with the events in the other Group H tie even though the match finished before this one began. Porto's victory over CSKA, in Moscow, meant all three of the others teams could qualify. Nevertheless it made for a ragged procession. Twice inside the first 10 minutes Chelsea could have gone ahead - and both times it involved fringe candidates. Mateja Kezman's centre, after Arjen Robben's astute pass, ran away from Joe Cole and then, with the roles reversed, the Serb stabbed a shot past the far post. Indeed, the three Chelsea front men interchanged constantly, with Mourinho demanding that they stretch the play.

But after that the game drifted. There was no lack of urgency, just of accuracy. Cole, who was playing despite the death of his grandmother, was particularly eager to please, but often he navigated himself into blind alleys incurring the wrath of Mourinho. PSG, meanwhile, threatened little. Shots from distance were their best hope in the face of a refusal to commit players forward. None threatened Carlo Cudicini although, in one foray, Reinaldo crashed the ball into the side-netting from an acute angle.

In the last act of the half, Robben then screwed a right-foot shot across goal, when he should have cut the ball back. It was also his last contribution as he gave way to Damien Duff.

There was an early incursion by the Irishman and a deep cross, which had goalkeeper Lionel Letizi stretching, while Lampard's shot on the turn, from the edge of the area, only just cleared the bar.

Encouraged, he whipped in a free-kick, which skimmed over Cole's boot, and into Letizi's hands. On 59 minutes it constituted Chelsea's first shot on target. Lampard soon had the second. But, from Duff's corner, it lacked power. He, too, soon exited, replaced by Eidur Gudjohnsen while Didier Drogba, after an injury-induced absence of five weeks, also returned as Mourinho swamped his forward line

Four up-field showed no lack of intent, even if Gudjohnsen was charged with tracking back. He also found time to release Drogba who should have scored. Instead, he drove the ball into the goalkeeper's legs.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cudicini; Johnson, Gallas, Carvalho, Bridge; Smertin, Lampard (Gudjohnsen, 62), Parker; Cole, Kezman (Drogba, 62), Robben (Duff, h-t). Substitutes not used: Pidgeley (gk), Geremi, Terry, Tiago.

Paris St-Germain (4-4-2): Letizi; Pichot, Pierre-Fanfan, Yepes, Armand; Cissé (Boskovic, 83), Cana, M'Bami, Mendy; Reinaldo (Coridon, 77), Pauleta (Pancrate, 89). Substitutes not used: Alonzo (gk), Ibisevic, Helder, Bamba.

Referee: R Temmink (Netherlands).

Comments