Juventus Show Chelsea It's Not over Until the Old Lady Sings

Tony MabertContributor ISeptember 19, 2012

Chelsea began their Champions League defence with an exciting 2-2 draw with Juventus at Stamford Bridge.

The Old Lady of Turin showed there was plenty of life left in her as she scrubbed out the Londoners' two-goal lead.

It was the Blues' resilience which led them to be crowned European champions last season, but at the start of their bid to retain the trophy, it was Italy's best team who were rewarded for their persistence, as they fought to a deserved point.

Brazilian midfielder Oscar marked his full Chelsea debut with two first-half goals in as many minutes —the second of them an unforgettable curling strike—that threatened to take the game away from the Serie A holders. However, even with manager Antonio Conte in the stands, Juve showed great spirit to fight their way to a very useful point in Group E.

First, Chilean midfielder Arturo Vidal pulled the visitors back into the game with a well-taken effort seven minutes before halftime. Then, with 10 minutes remaining, substitute Fabio Quagliarella levelled on his first-ever Champions League appearance.

The equaliser came from a combination of John Obi Mikel's sloppy pass and John Terry's subsequent bungled attempt to play Quagliarella offside, but it was just a reward for Juve refusing to let their performance level drop in the final quarter of a match.

At the 70-minute mark—around the time Chelsea brought on Ryan Bertrand for Ramires and reshuffled the midfield—Juventus had only won 33 percent of the aerial duels throughout the match. Between that point and the final whistle, their share of the headers won had risen to 42 percent.

The Bianconeri also had five of their 17 total shots in the final 20 minutes, including Quagliarella's goal and another effort from the substitute which looked to be dipping over Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal, but bounced off the top of the crossbar.

Such resilience is typical of Antonio Conte's Juventus, who, of course, won the Italian title unbeaten last season. In fact, they have not lost any of their last 42 Serie A matches.

Their only defeat in that period came in last season's Coppa Italia final in a 2-0 defeat to Napoli, a loss Juventus avenged with a 4-2 win over them in August's season-opening Supercoppa Italiana. In that match at Beijing's Birds Nest Stadium, they were down, 2-1, at halftime, but rallied after the break to win, 4-2, in extra time.

Last weekend, Juve were again behind at Genoa, but scored three goals in the final half hour to maintain their 100-percent start to the campaign.

Conte has often been credited with making timely substitutions and tactical adjustments to steer Juve back on course when things go against them during a game. That was unquestionably a factor in their unbeaten season last term.

Perhaps that instinct for making quick and effective decisions has rubbed off on his assistant, Massimo Carrera, and his players, because even in his absence from the touchline due to a 10-month ban, they seem to be able to pull something out of the bag whenever it is required.

That quality was very much in evidence again at Stamford Bridge, as even the European champions discovered at their cost that it ain't over until the Old Lady sings.