Chelsea 2 Juventus 2: match report

Read a full match report of the Champions League Group E game between Chelsea and Juventus at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday Sept 19 2012.

Chelsea can celebrate such talents as Oscar, who certainly deserved an award for best original score last night. They can call on the military to protect the European Cup on the pitch before kick-off, but if they make elementary mistakes as against Juventus they will struggle to keep the fabled trophy at the Bridge.

Juventus were good, attacking with endless brio, but such an ambitious side as Chelsea should not be allowing a two-goal lead to slip. Under Roberto Di Matteo in the second half of last season, Chelsea progressed to last May’s Champions League final in Munich because of their concentration and determination, their refusal to waste possession or grant opponents too many glimpses of goals. But here Chelsea players were too sluggish in responding to Juventus breaks, particularly the midfielder John Obi Mikel. Such dawdling costs points.

It could cost them the trophy they worked so hard to secure. As holders, Chelsea are targets. Juventus came to town eager to discomfort the champions.

Little, in truth, could really disturb the Chelsea supporters’ confidence. Juventus were greeted at the Bridge by a fans’ banner that read: “Welcome to Chelsea FC; first London club to win the Champions League”. Sounds backed up the sights.

“We know what we are,’’ crowed the inhabitants of the Matthew ­Harding Stand in that self-knowing way of theirs, “champions of Europe, we know what we are.’’ To remain as such, Chelsea need to find a balance quickly between their desire for uninhibited attacking and the retention of the obdurate qualities that helped them past Barcelona and then Bayern Munich to win the Champions League. It is a tricky balance that Di Matteo has to get right.

Oscar’s recruitment for £25 million signalled the ambition of the owner, Roman Abramovich, for greater refinement to go with the inherent dressing-room resilience. After 33 minutes, the “Oscar ceremony” and “leading role” headlines were being prepared.

On arriving at the Bridge from Internacional in the summer, Oscar calmly informed the club’s website that he saw himself as “an elegant type of ball-player” and he lived up to his words here, particularly with his sublime second goal that managed to bamboozle both Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon. Oscar did more to embarrass Italy’s finest in three seconds than England managed in two hours during the Euros.

Oscar really is a joy to watch. Nothing seems to faze the 21 year-old. Having been handed the Brazil No 10 shirt as a teenager, Oscar is clearly used to dealing with expectations and he wears such weighty garments lightly. He accepted the No 11 shirt here, presumably a size or two smaller than the previous owner. He was certainly fully aware of its significance after the historic feats of Didier Drogba.

Di Matteo fielded Oscar in the hole behind Fernando Torres, the Brazilian charged with the duty of dropping deep and closing down Pirlo, the Old Lady’s bearded beau. Juventus still threatened constantly, exploiting uncertainty in Chelsea’s defence.

Played onside by Branislav Ivanovic, Claudio Marchisio darted through and only the alertness of Petr Cech rescued Chelsea. Greater composure from Mirko Vucinic would then have brought Juventus the lead. First Vucinic hesitated, allowing Frank Lampard to block. Then Arturo Vidal released Vucinic, who fired wide.

That was enough sparring. Two heavyweights now went at it, Chelsea landing the first two blows. It was quickfire stuff, the first goal arriving in the 31st minute. Eden Hazard slid the ball to Oscar, whose shot seemed destined for the well-positioned ­Buffon until it caught Leonardo Bonucci and diverted away from the Juventus keeper.

It was a sign of Oscar’s popularity that he disappeared immediately from view as he was engulfed by jubilant team-mates. The Chelsea players clearly admire the Brazilian’s technique and imagination, gifts paraded spectacularly two minutes later.

Found by Ashley Cole’s pass, Oscar did brilliantly to spirit the ball past Pirlo on the edge of the Juventus area, (almost) reviving memories of the way Dennis Bergkamp tricked Nikos Dabizas 10 years ago.

Oscar imparted spin on the ball, taking it away from Pirlo, actually away from goal, roughly 22 yards out. He ran after it and then curled it elegantly past Buffon from the edge of the area. In thought and deed, Oscar was a step ahead of Juventus.

Cole won the race to be the first Chelsea player to congratulate the smiling Oscar. Not all onlookers were bowled over. Speaking on Sky, Graeme Souness argued that Oscar’s first touch had been fortuitous, yet the Brazilian’s eyes were on the ball throughout, indicating he knew exactly where he was manouevring the ball to escape Pirlo and fashion the scoring opportunity.

Juventus refused to play the supporting role to Oscar. Within five minutes, the Italians had pulled one back. Vidal was helped by Chelsea dithering. Granted a yard of room by Mikel, Vidal threaded a low shot past Cech.

Now fully aware of Juventus’ danger, Chelsea went hunting a third in the second half. Hazard was desperately unlucky not to be awarded a penalty after being pushed twice by Andrea Barzargli and then falling amid a tangle of legs. Oscar was then clattered by Bonucci, requiring his substitution to a standing ovation. After a warm congratulatory handshake from Di Matteo, the Brazilian went straight down the tunnel but reported later that he was “fine”.

Although Juan Mata arrived to bring his scheming skills to the occasion, the energy still seemed to be draining out of Chelsea. Di Matteo’s centre-forward options were limited by the tight hamstring Daniel Sturridge suffered in training on Tuesday, although Di Matteo said he “will not be out for long”.

Juventus grew in strength. Willed on by their fans, who rarely settled back in their seats and certainly rarely paused from their exhortations, the Italians kept charging forward in search of an equaliser. It duly, deservedly came 10 minutes from time. Again mistakes abounded.

Mikel was too lax in possession, John Terry was too sluggish in realising Fabio Quagliarella’s run and the substitute coolly slotted the ball past Cech. Moments later, Quagliarella clipped the bar. Chelsea held on, emerging with a point and a lesson.

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