Chelsea were held to a 1-1 draw by a spirited, dynamic Genk side in an unconvincing draw at the Cristal Arena.
The blues lined up in their usual 4-3-3 formation with a mixture of regulars and first team fringe players, giving the line-up a slightly carling cup feeling. Captain for the evening Petr Cech was behind a back four of Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Luiz and Cole. Romeu, Ramires and Meireles made up the midfield three, behind an attacking trio of fit-again Anelka, Torres and Malouda. Genk played a typical 4-4-2 formation.
Chelsea looked to settle early in front of a hostile, loud crowd on a Belgian bank holiday, but Genk caused a couple of early problems as the rain lashed down in eastern Belgium. These two sides were involved in games that saw an aggregate of 17 goals on Saturday, and a fast paced early start showed that this game could also provide us with plenty of goalmouth action. Chelsea’s first shot on target was a half hit shot by Ramires that didn’t cause Koteles too much trouble. A fizzing ball into the box was headed away by Ngongca and a Cole cross was cleared as the visitors looked to pile on the pressure. Later, Vanden Borre blocked Anelka and Torres from finding their way through, but possession was being pretty equally shared as Genk looked to attack on the break.
Ramires broke the deadlock on the 26th minute, after a brilliant one-two with Torres. The celebratory samba dance between Ramires and Luiz which followed the goal was almost as timely executed as Ramires’ run for the goal itself. Genk made a great response and looked to get a goal back straight away, but were thwarted by a resurgent, concentrated looking Chelsea rearguard, desperate not to concede after shipping five to Arsenal on Saturday.
Torres, looking positive and aiming to do as well as he did at home to the Belgian champions where he scored two, shot just wide as the Group E leaders looked to gain a foothold on the game. Ramires almost doubled his tally, but headed wide at the far post. Moments later, ex Pompey player Vanden Borre almost put the ball in his own net from a Malouda cross, with Torres and Anelka both waiting to pounce. Meireles hit the bar with a stinging shot from outside the box, before the Norweigen referee gave a penalty before handball. David Luiz, who some would say was a surprising choice for penalty taker, had his softly shot penalty saved by Koteles after a stuttering run up. The last chance of the first half went to Genk, but a Tozser free kick was hit over the bar so the Blues went in 1-0 up at half time.
Early on in the second half, Luiz had a go at another set piece, this time sending a free-kick way over the bar after Malouda was challenged illegally, whilst De Bruyne’s shot was well held by Cech and Ngongca found his shot saved when he was almost through on goal after a great run by Vanden Borre at the other end. The volume was being pumped up further as Genk looked to capitalise on their best spell of the game so far which included successive corners. A ball over the top couldn’t quite be reached by Vossen but this chance seemed to somewhat conclude a worrying few moments for Chelsea.
A strike from the edge of the area by Meireles was hit straight at the keeper as we approached the hour mark. The brief respite for the Chelsea defence was soon over, and Genk equalised with a well-worked team goal finished by Vosser on the 61st minute, their first group stage goal at the 4th attempt. The goal put some life back into Chelsea, who attacked with renewed vigour but were still finding Genk as easy to break down as they were at the Bridge. A double substitution signalled Andre’s intent to win the game, Lampard and Sturridge replaced Anelka and Ramires.
With less than twenty minutes remaining, Meierles headed into the keepers arms from a Malouda cross, in a chance reminiscent to Anelka’s at loftus road where a more powerful and angled header either side of the keeper would have seen the net ripple. In an attacking and bold move, Mata came on for Romeu to try and bring a creative spark to proceedings. Many in the away section might have thought Torres should have been replaced, as he was having a frustrating and difficult second half.
Bosingwa went down fairly easily in the box attempting to win a second Chelsea penalty but nothing was given, probably rightly so. Lampard was so close to making it 2-1 when he missed from barely yards out after Sturridge set him up perfectly. Sturridge himself then hit a powerful shot forcing the keeper into a save. Cech saved at Limbombie’s feet as Genk had chances to threaten creating an unlikely victory.It was Chelsea who were looking most likely to win it though, Lampard shot wide before a Malouda shot looked to be trickling in but was cleared on the line as two Genk defenders hit the ball off one another and out of danger. A ferocious drive By Luiz was hit just wide in the last action of the game, before the roof was raised to celebrate a famous draw for Genk. Although they did also draw at home to Valencia, this is surely a result they will not forget in a hurry, while we’ll hope we don’t live to regret it at the end of the group stage.
Next, we travel to Blackburn on Saturday, hoping to re-discover our league form following two disappointing Premiership defeats in a row.