Chelsea Pay the Penalty
Chelsea’s progression in Europe suffered a dent today after a disappointing 1 – 0 defeat at the hands of Romanian league leaders Steau Bucharest where a somewhat soft penalty was scored by talismanic striker Rusescu. Chelsea fans will probably still expect to over turn the deficit when the teams meet again at Stamford bridge in a weeks time. However they should have done better, especially with their passing against stubborn opposition.
Both teams it can be said didn’t create much in the way of chances, but it was Steau who dominated early possession. They started the game off far more energetically, and with 12 victories out of their last 14 games, that can be hardly surprising. For all their early possession, Steau failed to create chances, except for a long range Chipciu effort that went wide. Chelsea on the other hand were very sloppy on the ball, often losing it in midfield, with Mikel and Lampard the main culprits. Whenever they found a way to get the ball to Torres, he struggled to make anything of it; partly due to his isolation up front, and partly due to poor touches. He has shown signs of a lack of confidence, something Chelsea fans have become all too familiar with over the last 2 years.
Steau’s home crowd were in great voice throughout the game, trying to help their team. However a lot would argue they were trying too hard, by appearing to shine laser pens into the eyes of Chelsea players during dead ball situations. Torres, David Luiz and Lampard were the main recipients. Although it didn’t appear to affect the players, it still went unnoticed by the officials. Time will tell if the club should face any repercussions.
Chelsea and Steau were both probing without creating any real chances. In fact we had to wait until the 34th minute for the first half chance, which in turn produced a goal. After a quick counter attacking move down the left, partly due to some poor tracking back by Eden Hazard, the ball found its way to the adventurous Steau left back Latovlevici. He produce a magnificent cross to the back post looking to find Rusescu, who was subsequently bundled over by Ryan Bertrand. This resulted in a penalty. Bertrand certainly had his arm over the Romanian domestic top scorer, but it was hardly a stone wall penalty. Bertrand was issued with a yellow card, although could consider himself lucky, as one could argue he denied the striker a goal scoring opportunity. Needless to say, Rusescu picked himself up to confidently smash the penalty past Cech, who guessed the right way, but couldn’t get close enough to it.
Steau seemed value for their lead as they’d been bossing the midfield in the early stages. However, Chelsea fought back with some pressure of their own, and just before half time, should have been level. Yossi Benayoun exchanged a neat one-two with Hazard to make himself some room in the area before slightly scuffing his shot. This was heading for the bottom corner until it was turned away by Tatarusanu. The Steau shot stopper was called into action again on the stroke of half time, as he parried Torres’s decent snap shot on the turn away for a corner.
The second half was more of the same from Chelsea, as they continuously gave the ball away in midfield, resulting in them struggling to create any decent chances or pressure. In fact it was Steau who created the next opportunity. The impressive Latovlevici crossed again, causing confusion in the Chelsea box, before Tanase fired wide. Chelsea responded by introducing Juan Mata for Benayoun, but unfortunately he wasn’t able to replicate his impressive league form this season, remaining largely anonymous for the remainder of the game. Eden Hazard had Chelsea’s first decent chance of the half; remarkably for the reigning European champions in the 75th minute. However he saw his powerful shot from an acute angle sail over. It was to be Hazard’s last contribution to a relatively poor performance by his standards, as he was replaced by Marin. Marin almost instantly made an impact by forcing Tatarusanu into a smart save at his near post, after a jinking run in the box.
David Luiz saw a long range free kick fly narrowly over, very late on, as Chelsea looked for an equalizer. They resorted however to simply pumping long balls in the box for Torres to no avail. Steau had a chance to double their lead in stoppage time but substitute Gardos failed to trouble the keeper after breaking through two Chelsea challenges. Steau comfortably hung on for the victory, which leaves Chelsea with a difficult, but by no means impossible task, in a weeks time. Their performance will have to drastically improve if they want to compete well against Manchester United, who they face in the FA cup at Old Trafford on Sunday. They also face Steau in the return fixture next week.