Tuesday 20 March 2018

Chelsea fears ‘keeper crisis as Cech joins understudy Hilario in sick bay

ANDRE Villas-Boas was confident Chelsea had avoided a goalkeeping crisis, despite Petr Cech needing hospital treatment after last night's dramatic Carling Cup victory over Fulham.

Cech was forced off at half-time of the third-round tie at Stamford Bridge yesterday after suffering a head injury in a collision with Orlando Sa.

Chelsea were already without understudy Hilario, meaning losing Cech left them with Ross Turnbull as their only recognised first-team goalkeeper.

But after Turnbull helped his side to last night's controversial 4-3 penalty shootout win, Blues boss Villas-Boas revealed Cech had been given the all clear.

"Petr went for a scan in the hospital and he's okay," he said.

"He felt a little bit dizzy from the early concussion at half-time.

"We decided, and he decided as well, it was better not to take risks."

Cech could be forgiven for playing it safe.

The 29-year-old became the first high-profile goalkeeper to wear protective headgear in all matches after suffering a fractured skull in a sickening collision with Stephen Hunt at Reading five years ago.

He also watched team-mate Didier Drogba knocked clean out by Norwich goalkeeper John Ruddy almost four weeks ago, with the striker only fit enough last night for a place on the bench.

Villas-Boas had planned to bring Drogba on but was forced to think again, with Cech's injury part of a triple blow for Chelsea either side of half-time.

The first befell Daniel Sturridge, who hurt himself netting a disallowed goal shortly before the break.

Revealing the striker had a knee problem, Villas-Boas added: "The ligaments are okay.

"If he misses one (game), it won't be more than that."

The final calamity occurred less than two minutes after the break, with Alex sent off for bringing down Kerim Frei.

It meant Chelsea ended up playing more than 70 minutes with 10 men.

Villas-Boas said: "We thought by that time that, as the game was going on, if we really had to go into extra-time, we could be struggling physically.

"These players who played, a couple of them don't have enough minutes.

"Straight away, you're going into a 120-minutes situation, which is a lot for the body.

"That's why the win is special, because they were able to cope with it."

Chelsea's victory was all the more remarkable considering Fulham also missed a penalty in normal time and they arguably were denied another spot-kick before the most dramatic of shootouts.

Frank Lampard and Mousa Dembele both had efforts saved before Bryan Ruiz stepped up for Fulham's fifth, which he crashed against the crossbar and possible down over the line.

It was not given and replays were inconclusive as to whether or not the ball was in.

Fulham boss Martin Jol said: "To be fair, I haven't seen it.

"Somebody was standing in front of me."

Villas-Boas, who began the week by complaining to referees' chief Mike Riley about the officials' performance in Chelsea's defeat at Manchester United on Sunday added: "Everybody was looking at each other wondering if it was celebration time.

"The linesman was there so maybe, this time, the decision is good."

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