Bayer shock Chelsea
Chelsea's place in the last 16 of the Champions League is far from certain, but remains in their own hands after they lost 2-1 at Bayer Leverkusen
By Graeme Bailey - Tweet me: @skygraemebailey
Last Updated: 23/11/11 10:17pm
Chelsea's place in the last 16 of the UEFA Champions League is far from certain, but remains in their own hands after they lost 2-1 at Bayer Leverkusen.
The Blues had looked like they were ready to book their place in the next round after Didier Drogba's smart finish put them ahead just after the break.
But Robin Dutt's men showed tremendous spirit to bounce back and seal the victory which puts them into the next round.
The equaliser came on 73 minutes when the home side punished some slack Chelsea defending with Eren Derdiyok heading his side level.
Then in the final minute, the home side grabbed the win with Manuel Friedrich rising above Alex to loop his header over Petr Cech.
With Bayer facing Genk in their final match in two weeks, they are virtually assured top-spot in Group E - meaning Chelsea's game with Valencia is a battle for second-spot. Victory for either side would see them through, and because of the Spanish side's superior goal-difference anything other than a goalless draw would not be enough for the West London giants.
Chelsea arrived at the BayArena beset by on- and off-field problems and there was more bad news for the visitors when it emerged Ashley Cole, who had started all of their Barclays Premier League and European games this season, had been struck down by an ankle injury.
Jose Bosingwa was recalled as an emergency left-back, while Raul Meireles and Daniel Sturridge came into the side beaten by Liverpool on Sunday - but there was still no place for Fernando Torres.
A boisterous home crowd almost had something to celebrate in the 32nd minute.
Former Blues favourite Michael Ballack rose highest to head Gonzalo Castro's corner back acorss goal and against the crossbar, with Ramires on hand to clear.
Groans became whistles minutes later when Stefan Kiessling was booked for dissent and Drogba should have silenced the home fans completely six minutes before the break.
Daniel Sturridge, who rose above the general mediocrity, played an inch perfect through-ball and Drogba rounded Bernd Leno before lashing wildly into the side-netting from a tight angle.
Michal Kadlec was cautioned for handball and Juan Mata sent a weak volley straight at Leno after more outstanding work from Sturridge.
Leverkusen were losing their discipline and Ballack became the third home player needlessly booked before half-time.
Chelsea picked up where they had left off and were in front inside three minutes of the restart.
Sturridge floated another fabulous ball in to Drogba, who brilliantly held off Friedrich before turning and rifling left-footed into the bottom corner for only his second goal of the season.
And the striker almost twice laid on a second when his flick-on was headed straight at Leno by Frank Lampard and his pass set up Branislav Ivanovic for a blast also too close to the goalkeeper.
Ivanovic was then carded for a late tackle on Sidney Sam before Leverkusen sent on Andre Schurrle for Daniel Schwaab.
Chelsea had thrown away a lead in both their previous Champions League away games and they went close to doing so again twice in a minute, only for Petr Cech to win the battle of the masked men.
The goalkeeper first tipped Ballack's overhead kick over the bar before producing a brilliant reaction save to repel his former team-mate's close-range volley.
Kiessling should have given Cech no chance with a point-blank header soon after which he somehow sent straight at the Czech as all Chelsea's defensive uncertainty began to resurface.
Sturridge almost settled the nerves with a superb 60-yard run and finish that was close down by Leno before Mata was withdrawn for Florent Malouda and Luiz soon followed for Alex.
Malouda almost killed the game when he drove into the box but was thwarted by a sprawling save.
That came seconds after Leverkusen made their second change when Derdiyok replaced Kadlec - and it was the striker who levelled 17 minutes from time.
The ball found its way to Sam on the left and his cross drifted over Cech and the entire Chelsea defence, allowing Derdiyok to nod into an empty net.
Drogba was convinced he should have had a penalty when Lars Bender clattered into the back of him and he also sent a volley wide.But with the final whistle looming, Leverkusen snatched victory, Friedrich leaping superbly to power Castro's corner in off the crossbar.
|Bayer 04 Leverkusen||Team Statistics||Chelsea|
|0||1st Half Goals||0|
|5||Shots on Target||8|
|2||Shots off Target||5|