Blues complete Italian job
Chelsea moved into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League with a 2-2 draw against Juventus.
By Chris Burton
Last Updated: 10/03/09 10:12pm
Chelsea survived an almighty scare in Italy as they moved into the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League with a 2-2 draw against Juventus.
Vincenzo Iaquinta and Alessandro Del Piero struck for Claudio Ranieri's men, but Michael Essien's scrappy effort and a late strike from Didier Drogba saw the Blues through.
If Chelsea were under any illusions as to the enormity of the challenge facing them in Turin, a partisan home support let it be known in no uncertain terms that they expected their team to put on a show.
And those packed inside the Stadio Olimpico would not be disappointed as the hosts began the game in breathtaking fashion.
Chelsea threatened to buckle under the strain of a flurry of early corners, but were able to hold firm, while Pavel Nedved was running the show in a manner befitting a man half his age.
The Czech ace was, however, forced off less than 15 minutes in, leaving the field in tears, and there was a fear his absence would see the standard drop.
That was not to be the case, though, with Juve becoming more dominant if anything.
Michael Ballack did slice a woeful effort well wide of Gianluigi Buffon's post after benefitting from some slack defending, but that was as close as the Blues came.
At the other end a breakthrough was becoming inevitable and it duly arrived on 19 minutes as Iaqunita combined beautifully with strike partner David Trezeguet before rifling past the onrushing Petr Cech.
There would be no letting up from the home side after drawing themselves level in the tie, with Del Piero working Cech with a couple of useful efforts from distance.
Inevitably though, after such a bright opening, the game did begin to mellow as half-time approached, allowing Chelsea a route back into proceedings.
Drogba felt he had levelled matters with a 25-yard free-kick which Buffon appeared to haul back from behind the line, but Essien did find the back of the net in first-half stoppage-time.
Buffon did remarkably well to push a deflected effort from Frank Lampard onto the underside of the bar, but the Italy international was powerless to stop Essien bundling in the rebound and snatching a crucial away goal.
Fortunate to find themselves back in control of the contest, Chelsea looked far more accomplished at the start of the second period.
Juve were once again forced to grab the game by the scruff of the neck as they battled for their European lives, but found John Terry and co. to be a tough nut to crack.
A blue wall blocked their passage to goal at every junction, with Hiddink's men prepared to keep things tight, safe in the knowledge that they had no need to press forward in search of a second.
That was not to say that they put ten men behind the ball and shut up shop, they just adopted a sensible approach to booking their safe passage into the last eight.
On the occasions they did push forward, Drogba again tried his luck with a stinging set-piece while Essien continued to bomb into the box whenever the opportunity allowed.
Juve were growing increasingly frustrated by this stage and Cristian Molinaro was fortunate to remain on the field after a petulant swipe at Essien.
Ranieri's men appeared to be running low on ideas, with the crisp passing and clever movement which had illuminated the opening exchanges unable to be brought to the fore once more.
Del Piero did test Cech with a powerful head from eight-yards, but the Chelsea man was more than equal to the task.
Sebastian Giovinco's appearance off the bench brought some much-needed guile to the Juve midfield just past the hour-mark, and the diminutive playmaker dragged the hosts back into the ascendancy.
He played a key role in a move which saw Cech at full stretch to palm a goal-bound header from Trezeguet up and over the bar and was only inches away from finding the head of Del Piero with a dipping delivery from the sidelines which again brought the best out of Chelsea's No. 1.
A moment of madness from Giorgio Chiellini threatened to undo all their hard work when he needlessly got himself dismissed for a second yellow card, but another questionable piece of defending from Juliano Belletti handed the Italians a lifeline.
The Brazilian, only moments after stepping off the bench, inexplicably handled a Del Piero free-kick inside the box on 74 minutes and Juventus' talismanic skipper stepped up to calmly convert from the spot.
However, a topsy-turvy encounter would eventually swing in favour of the English outfit as, with seven minutes left on the clock, Belletti atoned for his earlier error by sliding a low cross into the path of Drogba, who swept home from close range.
Buffon prevented the scoreline from flattering the Blues with a couple of smart stops late on, but it mattered little.
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|6||Shots on Target||8|
|3||Shots off Target||5|