Drogba hands Chelsea the edge
Chelsea will take a slender 1-0 advantage to Turin after Didier Drogba's strike defeated Juventus.
By James Dall
Last Updated: 25/02/09 10:51pm
Chelsea will take a slender 1-0 advantage to Turin in two weeks' time after Didier Drogba struck the only goal of the game against Juventus in the UEFA Champions League.
Former Blues boss Claudio Ranieri took his Juve charges to Chelsea aiming to stun the home faithful as interim boss Guus Hiddink oversaw his first match at Stamford Bridge.
In Hiddink's second encounter in charge of Chelsea, the Premier League club dominated much of the first half and their high tempo football was rewarded after just 12 minutes when Drogba lashed home from an intelligent Salomon Kalou pass.
Juve were much-improved in the second period, determined to net a potentially decisive away goal, but a dogged Blues display was enough to see them stand firm and hold out for an excellent 1-0 victory in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Ranieri was given a warm reception by the home fans before the game, with the Italian coach still held in high esteem by Chelsea fans even though he failed to win a single trophy during his four-year stint at in West London.
It was the English side who made the first inroads towards goal with Jose Bosingwa forcing Gianluigi Buffon into a save with a left-foot shot from the edge of the penalty area in the fourth minute.
Four minutes later, Drogba almost opened the scoring when he got ahead of his marker to turn a cross from Bosingwa just over the crossbar.
But the Ivorian put the home side in front in the 12th minute when a superb through ball from Kalou provided him with a clear-cut shooting opportunity and Drogba supplied the required finish in style.
In the 15th minute, Drogba should have made it two when he met a corner from Frank Lampard inside the six-yard box.
But the Ivorian inexplicably headed the ball wide of Buffon's right-hand upright.
It required a fine save from Petr Cech to preserve Chelsea's lead in the 21st minute, when Alessandro Del Piero tried to find the corner with an angled drive that was tipped round the post.
Juventus were enjoying their best spell of the game with Del Piero always a threat.
In the 31st minute, Ashley Cole saw a 30-yard shot deflected wide of the target with Buffon flatfooted.
The Serie A side were struggling to match Chelsea's determination and the English team's passion was underlined by two bone-crunching tackles from John Terry in space of a few seconds.
The second one left Mohamed Sissoko requiring treatment before being classed as able to resume his duties.
In the 41st minute, Pavel Nedved tested Cech with a 20-yard low drive that the Chelsea goalkeeper dealt with adequately enough.
Juventus were finding it hard to cope with the physical side of the game and Mauro Camoranesi also required lengthy treatment before continuing.
Two minutes before the interval a handball by Drogba gave Del Piero the chance to level the scores but his free-kick was hit straight at Cole.
It could have been worse for the visitors had Kalou not slipped as he tried to get on the end of Cech's long clearance.
Chelsea continued their high tempo at the start of the second half.
Some fine work by Lampard on the edge of the penalty area culminated in a shot from Michael Ballack that was wide of the target.
An away goal would have tipped the tie in favour of the Italians and Nedved again tried to outwit Cech with a long-range effort but the Chelsea keeper was at his most alert to deal with the threat.
Drogba, a constant threat, almost scored his second of the night when he got ahead of Nicola Legrottaglie to head a cross from Bosingwa just wide.
In the 50th minute Juventus lost the services of Camoranesi with a hamstring injury. He was replaced by Marco Marchionni.
Moments later John Mikel Obi was the recipient of a bad challenge by Cristian Molinaro and the Juve player was justifiably booked.
Chelsea felt they should have had a penalty when Drogba was brought down by Legrottaglie in the 53rd minute but Portuguese referee Olegario Benquerenca rejected their appeals.
It was all Chelsea now with a sustained spell of pressure ending in a 20-yard shot by Lampard straight at Buffon's midriff.
In the 57th minute, Ballack was yellow-carded for a foul on Nedved.
Cech was in trouble with a free-kick from Del Piero in the 59th minute. The Czech Republic international twice failed to gather the ball before it was eventually cleared by Terry.
Marchionni then gave Cech a scare with an angled 25-yard drive that flashed just over the bar. Juventus piled on the pressure as the game entered the last 15 minutes but Chelsea's rearguard admirably stuck to its task.
Indeed, they prevented the Italian side from engineering a clear-cut chance despite having the lion's share of possession in the closing stages.
But it was Anelka who almost gave Chelsea the cushion of a second goal when his 20-yard effort flashed inches wide of an upright in the 87th minute.Nedved was wide by a similar margin in stoppage time but Chelsea held on for victory.
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