SNOW JOKE IN GREECE

By Matt Connellan
Feb 20th, 2008

Chelsea toiled hard in the Greek capital, but a drab game only produced a 0-0 draw between Chelsea and Olympiakos.

Chelsea rested John Terry and Frank Lampard ahead of the Carling Cup Final, with Claude Makelélé skippering the side in midfield. Michael Essien and Didier Drogba were both in the starting lineup after their recent ACN escapades.

Michael Essien fired wide early on as Chelsea, in electricity yellow, looked to signal their intent. However, the game dragged on with neither side looking too interested in actually winning the football match.

Pantos’ shot was blocked by his own team-mate as the home side momentarily threatened, whilst Malouda struck the first shot on target, albeit straight at goalkeeper Nikopolidis.

Olimpiacos won a corner in the 28th minute, and managed to create a chance out of it, only for Stoltidis to head wide. Drogba shot straight at Nikopolidis as he looked to fashion a chance for himself, as goalscoring opportunities proved scarce in the opening stanza.

Čech was finally forced into a save after 56 minutes, saving a Djordjevic effort at the second attempt. He was nearly forced into action soon after as a rasping volley from Galletti flew just over the crossbar, after good lead up work from Djordjevic once more.

Malouda cut inside from the right and fired over the bar, before Avram Grant made a double switch. Malouda was one of the men sacrificed, Joe Cole the other to depart, as Nicolas Anelka and Salomon Kalou came on.

After 75 minutes, the impressive Djordjevic was replaced, Belluschi coming on.

With just six minutes to go, Michael Ballack tried his luck from 25 yards out, but the German’s shot was straight at the Olympiacos keeper Nikopolidis. Two minutes later, Frank Lampard was introduced into the game, Ballack departing.

He barely had time to make an impression on the match, although Kalou certainly did. In the last minute of stoppage time, the Ivorian found himself in behind the defence, but he failed to control, and the veteran Nikopolidis gathered the loose ball to keep a well earned clean sheet.

Chelsea’s unbeaten run stretched to 16 games with this draw, and one can only hope that the run is standing at 17, when the boys in blue return from Wembley’s Carling Cup Final. Chelsea haven’t conceded for 531 minutes in the Champions League, which bodes well for the return leg at Stamford Bridge.

Olympiacos (4-5-1): Nikopolidis; Zewlakow, Antzas, Julio Cesar, Pantos; Galletti (Belluschi 75) (Leonardo 82), Torosidis, Ledesma, Stoltidis, Djordjevic (c); Kovacevic (Nunez 86).
Unused subs: Sifakis, Patsatzoglou, Mitroglou, Sisic.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Belletti, Alex, Carvalho, A Cole; Makelele (c), Ballack (Lampard 86), Essien; J Cole (Kalou 74), Drogba, Malouda (Anelka 74).
Unused subs: Cudicini, Terry, Mikel, Wright-Phillips.

Referee Konrad Plautz (Austria)

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