Soldado (pen) 87
A brainless decision by Salomon Kalou literally handed Valencia a lifeline to rescue a point for the Spanish side in their Champions League clash against Chelsea. The substitute, who had only been on the field three minutes, inexplicably handled the ball from a corner, and from the resultant penalty kick Roberto Soldado stroked home the equaliser.
Soldado played as a lone front man for the home side as they lined up in a 4-2-3-1 formation. Argentinean Ever Banega and skipper David Albeda anchored the midfield, with three men allowed the freedom to push forward and support Soldado.
Chelsea also played a lone front man in Fernando Torres, but he was flanked by two much more advanced midfield players. Florent Malouda and recent recruit Juan Mata took up the wide positions. The presence of John-Obi Mikel in the holding role, allowed Chelsea’s other central midfielders, Ramires and Lampard, the freedom to go forward in support of Torres.
The opening moments saw the home side look very nervy in the defensive areas, and they were lucky not to concede a penalty inside three minutes. A sloppy pass from Albelda was pounced upon by Ramires and he sent Torres away. However a heavy touch allowed Adil Rami to bundle him off the ball, the referee waving away the Chelsea appeals.
After a shaky start, Valencia eased their way back into the game, with their knowledge of Mata’s lack of defensive capabilities seeing the play predominantly come down Chelsea’s right hand side, with numerous crosses coming in to the box from that flank.
The opening period saw Torres, bar his early tussle with Rami, cut an anonymous figure. However in the first 10 minutes of the second-half he, and the match, came alive with a frantic phase of action.
The game developed into a personal battle between Torres and Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves, who in a 10 minute spell produced four stunning saves. The first, and probably the best, came six minutes into the half, when Alves got down low to push away a Torres header from point blank range. Two minutes later Alves stood up to block the onrushing Ramires. Then just a minute later the keeper produced another stunning save to deny Torres again, the former Liverpool man showing a great touch to control the ball before shooting from 8 yards, Alves getting down to push behind. From the resulting corner he was on hand again to block a sliced clearance from Victor Ruiz.
Alves though was powerless in the 56th minute when Chelsea’s pressure finally told. A lovely break by Malouda down the right was followed by an intelligent low diagonal cut back which was met sweetly by Lampard to rifle low past the static stopper at his near post.
The game ebbed and flowed from end to end after the goal, and although Valencia had the upper hand in possession, they created little in the way of clear cut chances. When they did manage to carve out an effort, Petr Cech in the Chelsea goal was in fine form, never more so than with his superb full length save to deny the substitute Jonas four minutes from time, clawing the shot behind for the corner, from which Kalou intervened to spoil Chelsea’s night.
Valencia (4-2-3-1):Diego Alves; Miguel, Rami, Victor Ruiz, Alba; Banega (Jonas 73), Albelda, Hernandez (Feghouli 73), Canales, Mathieu (Piatti 59); Soldado
Chelsea (4-1-2-2-1): Cech; Bosingwa, David Luiz, Terry, Cole; Mikel; Ramires (Meireles 67), Lampard (Kalou 83); Mata, Malouda; Torres (Anelka 72)
Did you know…Prior to kick-off Chelsea were the only English side to have won in the competition so far this season.
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