Chelsea drew 2-2 with Atletico Madrid away from home in the Champions League and with FC Porto defeating APOEL Nicosia in the other game, Chelsea guaranteed their place in the knockout round. In a game that only truly came to life in the final ten minutes, star strikers Sergio Aguero and Didier Drogba each netted twice, all signature goals for the player themselves. Aguero’s double saw a beautifully crisp volley and delicate free kick beat Petr Cech, whilst Drogba had a towering header and a barnstorming thirty yard run and finish, to show for his evening.
Ivanovic and Carvalho were both rested by Carlo Ancelotti, meaning there were starts for Alex and Belletti at the back. Ashley Cole returned from injury on the left, whilst Michael Ballack, who had played the last four matches straight, was rested, his spot taken by Florent Malouda. Likewise, Anelka and Deco were on the bench, so Joe Cole supported Kalou and Drogba in attack.
The opening twenty minutes were tit for tat, as Atletico tried to assert themselves in front of their home crowd. The home side had changed manager since our last meeting, with Sanchez Flores now in charge. He urged his side on, and would be buoyed as Reyes forced Cech to stretch as far as his gigantic frame would allow, tipping over a curling effort from the former Arsenal player.
The Blues, as often this season, struggled for shape in the absence of Ballack. It is no coincidence that both our defeats were in his absence, and whilst he made a second half appearance here, it was in a deeper midfield role.
The remainder of the first half was devoid of genuine opportunities, Kalou’s header floating wide and Lampard’s long range strike doing likewise. Assuncao and Reyes though, both picked up bookings for cynical fouls on our left back Cole.
Just after half time, a combination of Asenjo and the post denied a Drogba free kick, before both managers made changes, Aguero replacing Sinama-Pongolle for Atletico, and Ballack replacing Essien for Chelsea.
Atletico took the lead shortly after, and there was no lack of quality in its execution. Terry headed a cross away from goal, only to find the lurking Aguero. The immensely talented forward hit a sweet, crisp first time volley past the helpless Cech, and in doing so, put his side in front.
A spate of subs then followed, Ancelotti sending Anelka and Deco on to replace Kalou and Joe Cole, and Flores sending Maxi Rodriguez on in place of Reyes. Just six minutes after his introduction, Deco sent a decent change past the post, having found himself with a touch of space inside the area.
What followed though, was as frantic a finale as any could wish for. 82 minutes were on the clock when Lampard’s corner was cleared to Malouda. The Frenchman played a one two with Lampard wide on the left, before sending an accurate ball into the area. Leaping high was Drogba, who powered a header beyond Asenjo, to mark his return to the competition.
Five minutes later, the Ivorian latched onto a hopeful ball forward, taking a few beautiful touches to beat two defenders before powering towards goal. Although Asenjo made a decent save one on one, the rebound was tucked home by the alert Chelsea striker.
However, just when it seemed Chelsea had snatched victory, further late drama followed. In stoppage time, Aguero lined up a free kick, central though slightly to the right. Stepping up, he delicately curled the ball up and over the wall and past the dive of the despairing Cech, to level the scores.
A dramatic ending saw the points shared, and indeed the result was not unfair on either side. Chelsea clearly had one eye on this Sunday’s meeting with Manchester United, and by virtue of FC Porto’s win, qualifies for the knockout stages.
Chelsea (4-3-2-1): Cech; Belletti, Alex, Terry (c), A Cole; Lampard, Essien (Ballack 59), Malouda; Kalou (Anelka 69), J Cole (Deco 69); Drogba.
Manager Carlo Ancelotti
Atletico Madrid (4-diamond-2): Sergio Asenjo; Perea, Pablo Ibanez, Juanito, Antonio Lopez; Paulo Assuncao; Reyes (Maxi Rodriguez 72), Simao (c); Cleber Santana; Forlan, Sinama Pongolle (Aguero 54).
Manager Sánchez Flores
Referee Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)