Chelsea-Roma: Chelsea Get Champions League Blues in Italy
Without stalwart Ricardo Carvalho, Chelsea saw their defense and their matchday four clash with AS Roma fall apart on Tuesday.
After starting the game in commanding fashion it seemed that Chelsea had retained the dominance of the side that handed Sunderland a 5-0 thrashing on Saturday. However, after a clumsy give-away by Jon Obi Mikel and a card-warranting challenge from Deco, Chelsea seemed to pause while Christian Panucci ran past and easily flicked the ball behind Petr Cech into the net.
The goal was the first allowed by the West London side in all Champions League matches, and only their second in their last nine games in all competitions.
Prior to the foul Roma had only seen their end of the field, playing almost entirely in defense, not getting a chance to expose the glaring weakness in the Chelsea center defense.
The communication and teamwork were clearly an issue on the night, with Alex playing in the stead of the injured Carvalho. From the Panucci goal on it was clear that even Captain Fantastic, Terry, was out of sorts with his defensive partner.
As the game progressed Chelsea continued to press forward and command possession. However, with Roma content to sit back and wait on a counter attack and Chelsea failing to make any progress, things began to slip for the Blues.
The players who had stood out in the opening began to look bewildered and as the second half began Scolari decided a change was necessary. Felipe pulled his wingers and inserted Juliano Belletti and Didier Drogba.
Chelsea continued to press forward and keep the ball in the Roma half. However, when given an opportunity to move forward the Italian side moved fast and struck with frightening accuracy with Mirko Vucinic finding the net three minutes after the break and another 10 minutes after that.
Chelsea saw a glimpse of hope 15 minutes from time when Terry slotted home a rebound. Things seemed to fall apart five minutes later though, when Deco was given his second yellow card after taking a free kick too quickly.
Roma continued to press until the final whistle, giving Chelsea's back line trouble and Cech plenty to do. When the final whistle blew it seemed as though not a single man in Blue was not relieved.
Chelsea were out-classed by the Italians, who turned their defensive play into flowing counter attack and truly beautiful football. When Roma turned to the offensive they played much more like Chelsea than the London side did all evening.
Though the Blues were out-played, Scolari's handling of his side seemed very questionable. His moves after the break, opting to remove Cole and Malouda who had been playing well on the night while leaving defender Alex, who was clearly out of sorts, certainly did not work out according to his plan.
One suspicious omission is that of the Chelsea ghost man Branislav Ivanovic. Despite being available on the bench often in recent matches, he has remained absent from the side. The Brazilian will certainly bemoan the absence of Carvalho post-game and cast some blame upon the injury crisis, and not his own decision to sit the Serbian defender.
The Italians will certainly be pleased with their 3-1 victory, coming on the heels of five consecutive losses. The Blues, on the other hand, will be searching for answers on the practice field in Cobham and look to rebound against Blackburn on Sunday.
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