RANIERI’S RETURN FAILS TO PREVENT VICTORY FOR GUUS
Guus Hiddink recorded a second consecutive 1-0 win as Chelsea’s interim manager, successfully defeating Juventus on his home debut at Stamford Bridge. A rejuvenated Didier Drogba scored the winner, after an unexpectedly good assist from Salomon Kalou, who played exceptionally throughout. Claudio Ranieri received a warm reception from the Stamford Bridge faithful, returning for the first time since his disgraceful dismissal by Roman Abramovich.
Hiddink was able to call upon Ashley Cole at left back, having served his domestic suspension, and with Deco out injured, the rest of the lineup remained as per the victory at Villa Park on the weekend, which meant that Petr Cech made his 200th Chelsea appearance, opposite his other contender as the world’s elite goalkeeper, Gianluigi Buffon. Juventus fielded former Chelsea midfielder Tiago in midfield, alongside Sissoko, who along with defender Mellberg, all had Premiership experience.
Drogba had the first genuine opportunity of the match, when he was picked out by a devilish Jose Bosingwa cross. Under pressure from Legrottaglie, he headed over the bar. However, it was a genuine signal of intent from Hiddink’s men.
Just two minutes later, Chiellini charged into the back of Drogba in the penalty area, only for the Portuguese official to turn away the Ivorian’s penalty appeal. However, the last laugh was Drogba’s, as he opened the scoring in the eleventh minute.
Lampard’s corner was cleared, however the ball ended up at the feet of Kalou. Forty yards from goal, the winger played an audacious slide rule ball straight to the feet of the onside Drogba, who calmly finished into the corner past Buffon.
Drogba was showing the commitment, energy and passion that had made him such a threat under previous management, and a chance fell his way not long after the goal. Lampard’s corner picked him out, only for the cross to hit him in the side of the face and fly wide.
Just as Chelsea threatened to overrun Juve, the Old Lady showed their potential to hit on the break. Tiago exploited a gap between Terry and Ashley Cole, picking out Alessandro del Piero. The Italian veteran drove the shot across goal, forcing a world class save from Cech, diving full length to his right in an instant.
There were no more reasonable chances before the end of the half, as Chelsea took a one goal lead to the break.
Drogba headed wide a Bosingwa cross early on in the second half, before Molinaro was booked for another disgraceful challenge on John Obi Mikel. Just before the hour mark, Cech was found wanting, spilling a cross, before crawling along the ground to punch it clear as Amauri tumbled over him. It was a decent recovering after the initial error. Marchionni had already been introduced for Camoranesi, when Marchisio replaced Tiago. Both players were substituted as a result of injury.
Hiddink responded by replacing Kalou, who had been sharp and incisive on the right all evening, with Malouda, in a bid to retain possession more purposefully. With ten minutes to go, Michael Mancienne made a well-received home debut, in place of Michael Ballack. The youngster played alongside Mikel in a deep midfield position.
Drogba again had a penalty appeal turned down, before Trezeguet replaced Sissoko, as Ranieri’s side searched for a valuable away goal. Anelka drove a 25 yarder wide with Buffon beaten, before Nedved’s late deflected strike caused momentary panic as it flew inches past the post.
So Ranieri’s return ended in a 1-0 victory for Chelsea, courtesy of Drogba’s clinical finish. However, the tie is still delicately poised, and both sides will fancy their chances of going through to the next round, after the second leg in Turin in two weeks time.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry (c), A Cole; Ballack (Mancienne 80), Mikel, Lampard; Kalou (Malouda 71), Drogba, Anelka.
Manager Guus Hiddink
Juventus (4-4-2): Buffon; Mellberg, Legrottaglie, Chiellini, Molinaro; Camoranesi (Marchionni 51), Sissoko (Trezeguet 86), Tiago (Marchisio 59), Nedved; Amauri, Del Piero (c).
Manager Claudio Ranieri.
Referee Olegário Benquerença.