Cristal Arena, Genk
Jelle Vossen’s second-half goal gave Genk a point against Chelsea as the Premier League side were forced to wait to confirm their progress to the next round of the Champions League. Ramires put Andre Villas-Boas’ side in front but after David Luiz missed a penalty, Vossen levelled the scores to prolong a frustrating time for the Blues manager.
Villas-Boas responded to the weekend’s defeat by Arsenal by making a raft of changes, drafting in Oriol Romeu, Raul Meireles, Florent Malouda and Luiz in place of Frank Lampard, John Obi Mikel, Juan Mata and John Terry. For Genk, defender Anele Ngcongca passed a fitness test and in-demand winger Kevin de Bruyne, scorer of a hat-trick at the weekend, started on the left of midfield.
Genk, with de Bruyne seeing much of the ball, exploited gaps in the Chelsea defence early in the game but without the same devastating effect Arsenal managed at the weekend, and their initial threat soon petered out as Chelsea dominated possession for much of the first-half.
Yet, despite the presence of Romeu, theoretically a deep-lying playmaker at the heart of midfield, Chelsea were workmanlike, lacking the sparkle offered by Mata, although as much credit must go to Genk for being hard to break down as criticism to Chelsea for struggling to do so. When the visitors did slice Genk open they took the lead, Fernando Torres linking with Ramires as the midfielder broke the lines to great success.
The goal seemed to settle Chelsea down. They began to move the ball across the pitch with much greater fluidity, and Torres was again the set-up man as Meireles struck the upright, but that and Luiz’s missed penalty meant the game was still in the balance at half-time.
That state of affairs persisted into the second-half, when Genk rediscovered the impetus and pressured Chelsea early, forcing Petr Cech into a low save and winning a succession of corners. Chelsea’s high-line, which arguably led to their downfall against Arsenal, was again questionable as Genk threatened to exploit the space behind the defence.
Chelsea’s inability to regain control of the match was punished when Ramires allowed his man to break from midfield and from Fabien Camus’ pull-back, Jelle Vossen equalised. Camus had plenty of space to dart into and punished his Brazilian marker for the lapse in concentration, and Ramires’ compatriot Luiz for his missed penalty.
Villas-Boas rang the changes, first bringing on Lampard and Sturridge, who combined to create a golden chance that was spurned, and then Mata, the latter of the trio replacing Romeu as the manager subtly shifted his side’s tactics. Moving to a two-man midfield, Mata was pushed up behind the trio of Torres, Sturridge and Malouda, while Genk also tinkered with their system, withdrawing a striker and moving de Bruyne more centrally.
Chelsea’s football became slicker with Mata and Sturridge’s involvement but Genk, tasting a first Champions League point, became resolute again, as well as troubling Chelsea frequently on the counter-attack. Malouda had a last-minute lob scrambled off the line and Luiz fizzed a drive wide but Chelsea could not muster a second goal to grab all three points.
Genk (4-4-2): Koteles; Vanden Borre, Ngcongca, Nadson, Hyland; Buffel (Dugary 69), Tozser, Camus, De Bruyne; Vossen (Barda 87), Nwanganga (Limbombe 82)
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa, David Luiz, Ivanovic, Cole; Romeu (Mata 77), Meireles, Ramires (Lampard 66); Anelka (Sturridge 66), Malouda, Torres
Did you know… Vossen’s second-half goal was the first Chelsea have conceded against Belgian sides in four games.
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