A GAME OF TWO HALVES
Chelsea may have played most of the football in the Sükrü Saracoglu Stadium on Wednesday night, but it was Fenerbahce celebrating at the final whistle as two sucker punches left the Blues reeling.Avram Grant’s side did manage to bag a precious away goal in Turkey, but question marks have inevitably been raised after the defeat, although many fans still feel that Chelsea’s Champions League fate is in their own hands with the second leg at Stamford Bridge next Tuesday.
Grant sprung some selection surprises for the game, with outcast Florent Malouda starting his first game since his (non-) performance against Barnsley last month. Former Fenerbahce striker Nicolas Anelka started on the bench, while Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard and Claude Makelele were re-instated to the line-up after the win over Middlesbrough at the weekend, while Michael Essien again started at right-back.
Former Chelsea flop Mateja Kezman started up-front for the Turkish champions, while fellow forward Colin Kazim-Richards (dubbed Kazim-Kazim in Turkey) who also has experience of playing in the English leagues, made the subs’ bench.
It was Chelsea who made the brighter start with Joe Cole particularly lively, playing some clever football with Michael Ballack before sending a ball into Didier Drogba which was just too high for the Ivorian, then attempting a lob which Volkan Demirel-the home side’s ‘keeper-comfortably saved.
However, the Blues went one better soon after, albeit through a Fenerbahce mistake.
Florent Malouda went down the left before driving in a cross which struck the boot of midfielder Deivid and wrong-footed Volkan to put Chelsea 1-0 up. Deivid was the villain, but his fortunes would change dramatically later on in the game.
Only 12 minutes had elapsed and just five later, Essien almost doubled the lead. A good 30 yards out, Essien was given time and space, and he sent a thumping shot towards goal. With Volkan beaten, the ball struck the cross bar and went out for a goal-kick. Only a matter of inches kept the score at 1-0.
Essien was involved in the next chance too as Chelsea started to stamp their authority on the game. A cross from the Ghanaian was met by Drogba in the box, but his header was sent wide. Drogba then saw a powerful shot saved by Volkan after he rolled his marker in the box.
Fenerbahce had some half-chances and pressured Carlo Cudicini in the Chelsea goal with a couple of corners, but the Blues went in at the break with the slender lead.
The second 45 saw all that change however, and it all started with a change eight minutes into the half by the legendary Zico, manager of the Turkish side. He brought on “The Coca Cola Kid” Kazim-Kazim-bought for Brighton for £250,000 by a fan after a competition launched by the drinks company-and Fener started to push forward.
After a couple of chances for Chelsea from Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Ballack came to nothing, the home side lifted their fans with an equaliser in the 64th minute.
A long ball caught the John Terry-led defence short, as Kazim-Kazim raced through the backline. A clinical finish from just inside the box left Cudicini with no chance, although the defence should really have dealt with the ball over the top.
1-1 then and a clean sheet out the window, however, Grant told his side to keep attacking, and another good Ballack opportunity was wasted while Drogba did the same with a free-kick just outside the area.
The anonymous Kezman was withdrawn by Zico while Lampard was also taken off, the latter reacting angrily to the decision, to be replaced by John Mikel Obi.
Just minutes later, Chelsea found themselves behind. Deivid, scorer of the opening own-goal, received the ball in space fully 30 yards out. With little run-up he crashed a shot towards goal with shaved the inside of the post and ended up in the postage stamp of the goal. Top left corner, Cudicini beaten all ends up.
Anelka did get his chance to impress against his former employers, but the game ended with a Fenerbahce win as they continued their impressive unbeaten record at home in this competition.
A 1-0 win for Chelsea would be enough at the Bridge, but they’ll have to remember to play for two halves on Tuesday, or the European dream will be over for another year.