Chelsea's fate no longer in their own hands after mauling by Juventus
Juventus 3 Chelsea 0:Chelsea’s fate in this competition has been ripped from their hands and, with it, will surely go the Champions League trophy. Roberto Di Matteo had demanded a show of strength last night but in the end, his fading champions were overwhelmed, battered into submission by a dominant Juventus who can sense their own progress. The London club’s defence, not for the first time, seems in tatters.
A slim chance of reaching the knockout remains, but seems unlikely. Juve need only avoid defeat in Donetsk next month to join the Ukrainians in the last 16, and a draw might feel convenient for both teams.
Di Matteo shivered alone on the touchline here, his decision to omit Fernando Torres from the start inevitably to come under scrutiny even if his side would most likely have been overrun regardless. This was ragged, dismal and, by the end, utterly conclusive.
The selection had been aimed at achieving a measure of solidity. The desire to tighten up, with the inclusion of the full-back Cesar Azpilicueta on the flank, reflected the fragility that has seeped in over recent weeks, offering Branislav Ivanovic some protection against the attacking blur of black-and-white striped shirts.
Ashley Cole did not enjoy the same benefits on the opposite side, where Juan Mata’s instincts are always farther forward. That would become an issue as the contest developed, with this a tenth match in succession where they have been breached, their back-line creaking too often.
Daniel Sturridge might have seized upon a chance to impress only to tweak a hamstring in training at the stadium on the eve of the game. Instead, Eden Hazard was thrust forward as a nominal striker.
There was never much chance of the lofted diagonal passes sticking, even if he might still have gained reward. Oscar, a player whose best seems reserved for this competition, weaved one mind-boggling run from within his own half and slipped Hazard through at an angle only for Gianluigi Buffon to save. Hazard later skipped down the right and supplied Mata, only for the goalkeeper again to smother the shot.
Yet those chances were the exception amid frantic Juve pressure, Mata’s in the immediate aftermath of Fabio Quagliarella’s opening goal and with Cole still picking himself out of the goalmouth where he had somehow scrambled the ball from the line after Kwadwo Asamoah’s cross had struck David Luiz amid the panic.
Chelsea looked brittle, their back-line too narrow and inviting Italian raids on the outside.
Stephan Lichtsteiner, darting beyond Cole on to Mirko Vucinic’s clipped cross, had forced Petr Cech to tip on to a post in their first attack. Chelsea were unnerved by the onslaught and retreated in search of a solid base but with Arturo Vidal and Lichtsteiner tearing into their left flank. They were never likely to survive for long.
Cech still deserved better than to be beaten by a deflection, Quagliarella sticking out a leg to touch Andrea Pirlo’s ambitious attempt, with the goalkeeper’s momentum having carried him too far to his right.
Cech got the fingertips of his left hand to the ball but they were breached, their game-plan suddenly transformed into one of catch-up.
Victor Moses, not Torres, was sprung first from the bench but Juve’s menace remained constant. Twice Cech clawed away attempts by Mirko Vucinic, but the respite was to be brief. The striker tormented Luiz before feeding Asamoah. Chelsea were in disarray as the Ghanian cut his pass back for Arturo Vidal, whose shot flicked off Ramires to fizz past Cech’s attempted block.
Torres was duly summoned but the battle was over, Sebastian Giovinco adding a third in stoppage time with the Blues broken. The ignominy of the Europa League may await.
JUVENTUS: Buffon, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Lichtsteiner (Caceres 68), Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah, Quagliarella (Pogba 89),Vucinic (Giovinco 83). Subs not used: Storari, Pepe, Giaccherini, Matri. Booked: Bonucci, Marchisio, Giovinco.
CHELSEA: Cech, Azpilicueta (Moses 60), Luiz, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole, Ramires, Mikel (Torres 71), Hazard, Mata, Oscar. Subs not used: Turnbull, Romeu, Marin, Bertrand, Piazon. Booked: Ramires. Attendance: 40,000 Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey).