Home » Champ League, Latest » Match Report: Marseille 1 Chelsea 0

Against the Marseillais, the Chelsea malaise continued.

In this famous old port they had hoped to find the haven of a victory to re-launch their season, but the Champions League is not a refuge. This team has lost its way, even if they had already surged into the last 16 of this competition, winning Group F prior to tonight’s match.

What they were looking for was something restorative. Instead they got another defeat, with Brandao’s late goal confirming that this dire run has developed into a crisis.

Although this was billed as Didier Drogba’s homecoming, he lasted little more than an hour and appeared distracted by proceedings. It is something that has afflicted the team as a whole: how manager Carlo Ancelotti needed greater comfort than this after a run of just one win in six Premier League games.

Europe had been, well, perfect for them prior to this with five straight victories but they could not eke out a sixth as they now prepare for a trying series of domestic assignments – beginning with Tottenham on Sunday – while John Terry was also taken off early to protect him.

The goal came after his departure but it was still a telling moment, another drain on fragile confidence, while the throwing of objects between the fans close to the end of the match might prompt recriminations.

Drogba was afforded the honour of running onto the pitch on his own, ahead of the rest of the Chelsea team, taking the applause of Les Phoceens which started in the Virage Nord and then all four corners of the Velodrome.

The wave of emotion is the more remarkable given Drogba was in Provence for just one year, but he still managed to forge a deep bond in that time.

In terms of Chelsea’s future, it was Ancelotti’s decision to trust in 17-year-old Josh McEachran in the heart of his midfield, with John Obi Mikel in danger of suspension, which held the greater resonance.

It wasn’t his first start in this competition but it was his first start with the team under so much pressure given their disastrous run which had forced Ancelotti to field a far stronger line-up than, normally, he would have done with qualification already guaranteed and Group F won.

Not that this was a docile atmosphere. The cacophony was maintained from both ends of the stadium and rose when Mathieu Valbuena bounced off Michael Essien to retrive the ball and struck a dipping, right-footed shot from 25 yards which shuddered the cross-bar. Moments later the French international sent a diving header narrowly wide.

Certainly Marseille showed the greater purpose. Both Bruno Cheyrou and, from the edge of the six-yard area, Loic Remy had already sliced opportunities and there was a clear nervousness within Chelsea who stood off as Brandao spun and shot past the post.

Rather than be inspired by his return, Drogba appeared inhibited. He lacked his usual drive and aggression, which has also been drained from him by his bout of malaria, and he missed a clear chance also, after half an hour, when he was teed up by Salomon Kalou, after Essien had intercepted.

But Drogba side-footed weakly over with the outside of his boot. It lacked conviction, a description which also suited the refereeing.

Chelsea were left aggravated by seeingtwo legitimate claims for penalties waved away – and all this in front of the extra official behind the goal. First, Florent Malouda was caught by Souleymane Diawara and then, just before half-time, the Marseille defender clipped Kalou.

The home side also felt an injustice with Gabriel Heinze’s header, from a free-kick, ruled out for off-side even though he appeared to have been played on by Jose Bosingwa.

Ancelotti will not have been pleased, sending his team out early for the re-start, but there was a marked sense of improvement as Chelsea began the second period, although Malouda should have done better than shooting weakly when released.

Soon after and the ball broke to Kalou who was crowded out as he shaped to shoot while Ramires, once again, ballooned over another chance.

Marseille threatened also with Diawara, marginally, failing to turn into Taye Taiwo’s cross-cum-shot, while the impressive Branislav Ivanovic had to be alert to block Fabrice Abriel.

Given that, in truth, there was little tangibly at stake – Marseille had also qualified – the game understandably began to drift.

That was until Taiwo broke down the left once more, and shot across goal, the ball deflecting off Ramires for Brandao to poke past Cech and condemn Chelsea to another worrying result.

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