Juventus 3-0 Chelsea: Blues on the brink after defeat in Turin
Chelsea are on the brink of becoming the first holders of the UEFA Champions League to fail to qualify for the knock-out stages after a 3-0 defeat to Juventus
Chelsea are facing the prospect of becoming the first holders of the UEFA Champions League to fail to qualify for the knock-out stages after a 3-0 defeat to Juventus.
The Italians took a first half lead at the new Stadio Juventus when Andrea Pirlo’s long-range effort was turned in by Fabio Quagliarella, wrong-footing Petr Cech in the process. Arturo Vidal struck in the second half, quelling what was beginning to look like a Chelsea comeback and substitute Sebastian Giovinco compounded the Blues’ misery by adding a third in the dying minutes.
The result means qualification to the knock-out stages is out of Chelsea’s hands. Even if they emerge victorious in their final game at home to Nordsjaelland, a draw between Shakhtar Donetsk and Juventus will see the latter two through and Chelsea dumped out. Chelsea were two points ahead of Juventus going into Tuesday’s game, and Roberto Di Matteo knew that a draw would suit his reigning champions. However that reign appears to have come to an end after Juventus leap-frogged the Blues in the table.
The news leading up to kick-off centered around the dilemma facing Di Matteo over who to play as the main striker, or whether to play a striker at all. As it turned out, the Italian decided to leave £50 million flop Fernando Torres on the bench in favour of wide man Eden Hazard who led the line. Five changes were made to the starting XI that lost to West Brom at the weekend, including Ashley Cole and Ramires coming in for Ryan Bertrand and Oriol Romeu.
While Chelsea’s intentions were clear from their selection, Juventus’ intent was made evident from their bright start and they almost took the lead inside four minutes when some tidy footwork in the penalty area led to Stephan Lichtsteiner going close at the back post after a clever cross. Mirko Vucinic went close for the hosts as did ex-AC Milan favourite Andrea Pirlo who had a free-kick kept out by Cech who needed to be on red-alert in the opening exchanges.
But despite this early dominance it was Chelsea who should have found themselves 1-0 up. A Juventus move broke down outside the visitors penalty area and Juan Mata released Oscar who embarked on a jinking run as far as Gianluigi Buffon’s area. The Brazilian laid off for the supporting Hazard but his close range effort deflected off Buffon and out for a corner.
Chelsea were content to absorb the Juventus pressure and try and expose the Italian’s on the break and again the visitors came close when Ramires charged forward before teeing up Oscar whose shot was blocked. But Juventus were not to be denied and they took a deserved lead minutes before the break. Pirlo let fly from 25 yards with a low shot which appeared to take a heavy deflection off Quagliarella before rolling past the helpless Cech. Replays showed that Quagliarella had adjusted his body in order to alter the direction of the ball.
Mata had a chance to equalise minutes later but Buffon did well to put the Spaniard off, smothering at his feet and collecting the ball. After the break Juventus continued their domination and were committing players forward in search of a second. Despite their pretty approach play and tidy work between Mata, Hazard and Oscar, Chelsea were unable to probe the stern Italian defence and often found themselves outnumbered or choosing the wrong pass in the final third.
At the other end, Juventus looked the more likely scorers and their lead was doubled on the hour mark when Vidal’s shot was deflected in off Ramires. It was a soft way to concede but the Italians had been threatening and the warning signs were not heeded by Chelsea. Di Matteo responded by introducing Torres for John Obi Mikel while Cesar Azpilicueta made way for Victor Moses. And while Moses showed some promise on the right wing with some direct running to the by-line, Torres was simply ineffective up-front and struggled to make an impact; not helped by the frantic and desperate nature of Chelsea’s play as they sought to come back.
In addition, Juventus were as organised defensively from striker to keeper, as they were impressive on the attack and their midfielders took it in turns to illegally stop the advances of Ramires from deep; one of few men in blue to come out of this game with any credit. The Brazilian rarely gave the ball away, was strong in the tackle and looked to turn defence into attack as quickly and as often as possible.
As Chelsea pushed on in search of goals, Juventus made use of the space left behind and the scoreline was given a gloss by substitute Giovinco who added the third goal. Cech charged from his line when the sub was slipped through but Giovinco poked the ball under the Czech to round off an impressive win.
The Blues are now reliant on Shakhtar Donetsk beating the Italian champions, but with the Ukrainians sitting top of the group and having guaranteed qualification, there is the likelihood of them fielding a weakened team as well as the prospect of both teams settling for a comfortable draw. Whilst it would be unfair to say that Chelsea lacked the required spirit to get the job done, it was clear that they were missing a striker of genuine quality and form to finish off some attractive build-up play. The task of qualification is now out of their hands.
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