Sunday 15 December 2019

'Positives and negatives' for Lampard after lucky escape for Chelsea

Valencia 2 Chelsea 2

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard celebrates his team's first goal. Photo: Getty Images
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard celebrates his team's first goal. Photo: Getty Images

Matt Law

Chelsea's Champions League fate remains in their own hands, even if nobody really knows how. Valencia may have profited from good fortune to find a late equaliser, but, make no mistake, Frank Lampard's team got away with one at the Mestalla Stadium.

Lampard may have been frustrated to see an 82nd-minute Daniel Wass cross sail over the head of Kepa Arrizabalaga and rebound into the net off the inside of the post. But Valencia squandered five remarkable chances that would have left Chelsea with a mountain to climb.

Please log in or register with Independent.ie for free access to this article.

Log In

Chelsea's Kurt Zouma and Valencia's Gabriel Paulista rise for the ball. Photo: Getty Images
Chelsea's Kurt Zouma and Valencia's Gabriel Paulista rise for the ball. Photo: Getty Images

As it is, a first Mateo Kovacic goal in almost three years and a Christian Pulisic strike have left Chelsea just needing to beat Lille in their final group game to be sure of progress.

But if Chelsea defend this badly again, then their participation in the Champions League will not last much longer and Lampard said: "I'm happy to a degree. The draw keeps it in our hands. Now it is on us in the last game at home to Lille. That is a positive. There were positives and negatives out of the game, but that is a positive.

"Did I love the match? No, I didn't love it. Because it hasn't been many times this season where I have had to say, 'We kind of got away with that' Today was one of those because they missed big opportunities."

Chelsea's defence was opened up with ease on far too many occasions and they should have already been behind, when Carlos Soler gave the hosts the lead. Rodrigo delivered a perfect cross for Soler to succeed where Maxi Gomez had so badly failed earlier in the game.

Chelsea's Kepa Arrizabalaga stops a penalty. Photo: Getty Images
Chelsea's Kepa Arrizabalaga stops a penalty. Photo: Getty Images

Gomez, a summer target of West Ham, produced what must be the miss of the season so far in the 19th minute. Daniel Parejo, Valencia's playmaker, pushed the ball through Chelsea's defence for Rodrigo, who picked out Gomez at the back post. All he had to do was tap the ball in from six yards, but he somehow missed it.

Gomez kicked the advertising boards in frustration 11 minutes later, when Kepa saved his effort from a similar position from a Parejo pass.

But Chelsea found an instant response to Soler's 41st-minute opener from the unlikely source of Kovacic, who had not scored in 121 games, including 70 with Chelsea.

Just over 60 seconds after his team had gone behind, the midfielder tried his luck from 20 yards and found the bottom corner. He celebrated his latest strike like he might not score again for another 100 games.

Tammy Abraham then put the ball wide from a Reece James delivery and it was from a Willian cross that the striker suffered an injury. Abraham could not find the target with his attempted header and hurt his hip as he landed on Valencia defender Ezequiel Garay. As the players left the pitch for half-time, Abraham clutched his side and was in tears before eventually being carried down the tunnel on a stretcher, though Lampard later said the injury is not as bad as first feared.

Michy Batshuayi was sent on, but Abraham's injury did not stop the Blues' momentum as they took the lead eight minutes after the break.

Pulisic converted Zouma's knock-down from close range, only for the assistant referee to flag for offside. But, following a check that lasted three minutes, VAR allowed the goal to stand.

© Daily Telegraph, London

Telegraph.co.uk

The Left Wing: John Cooney on Ulster's European run and bouncing back from World Cup disappointment

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport