Thursday 22 March 2018

Villas-Boas' blues roll on as Vossen hits leveller

Genk 1
Chelsea 1

Jason Burt

Despite the travails of a "disastrous" week, Chelsea were not expected to struggle on their travels. Surely, in Flanders, they would not flounder?

Instead their "castle", to use Andre Villas-Boas' term, remains under siege. It was far from impregnable last night.

A draw away in the Champions League is acceptable but Chelsea simply cannot keep a clean sheet. They should have won but failed to do so and now need four points from their last two ties to ensure qualification from Group E.

This result, sloppy for a team with such grand aspirations and talent, came with John Terry on the bench, having found out earlier that the police are to investigate his alleged racial abuse of Anton Ferdinand.

Despite being reduced by injury and suspension and the limitations of their squad, there were bold banners unfurled by the Genk supporters before kick-off. Amid the teeming rain in eastern Belgium, they read: "Yes, we can."

Never, however, had Genk won a Champions League tie and, despite the impressive atmosphere and the 21,000 home supporters, optimism was weak.

Gradually, and as expected, Chelsea began to dominate possession. Ramires shot weakly while both Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda were wasteful when given the opportunity to cross while, for a time, Chelsea struggled to impose themselves against a Genk side more resolute, more organised than in their 5-0 drubbing from two weeks ago.

But soon the visitors found an edge. Ramires exchanged passes with Fernando Torres and the Brazilian made a typically strong run into the area, shooting from an acute angle with his effort squeezing under goalkeeper Laszlo Koteles and into the net for his fourth goal of the season.

Then Torres sent his own angled shot, from the edge of the area, this time from a Ramires pass, narrowly wide.

For Genk, defender Nadson headed straight at Petr Cech -- Chelsea's stand-in captain -- but it was a brief flicker of resistance and Ramires should have added his second when he was picked out by Malouda, after a flowing move, only to steer his own header wide. Nevertheless it showed, again, the value of the midfielder to break forward.

Soon after, Raul Meireles' reverse pass picked out Malouda and this time his cross was intercepted by Anthony Vanden Borre only for the former Portsmouth defender to divert the ball towards his own goal. It skimmed wide.

Chelsea went even closer when Meireles' shot crashed against the post, with Koteles beaten, and with the pressure telling Thomas Buffel batted down Malouda's cross with his arm and the referee rightly awarded a penalty.

Interestingly, up stepped defender David Luiz -- after Anelka's miss against Everton last week. His effort did not lack power but was too close to Koteles and he comfortably beat it away. Chelsea almost paid a high price when Vanden Borre's wayward shot fell to Kennedy Nwanganga, who should have scored. With a clear sight of goal, the striker hesitated and Cech, alertly, blocked his effort from the edge of the six-yard area.

Chelsea did not heed the signs and with Jose Bosingwa out of position, Fabien Camus broke down the left, from Kevin de Bruyne's fine pass, and centred low for Jelle Vossen to sweep the ball home.

Chelsea's slackness continued. On came Frank Lampard for Ramires, but he failed to turn in a centre.

Another substitute, Daniel Sturridge for Anelka, added some impetus but so did Genk's Anthony Limbombe and only Luiz's challenge prevented a goal-bound shot, while a late Malouda effort was cleared off the line by Anele Ngcongca, striking his team-mate and trickling wide. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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