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Champions League - Juventus 11th March 2009 2-2 (3-2 Aggregate)


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Aggrieved Drogba has the last laugh

Juventus 2-2 Chelsea (2-3 Agg)

By Alan McGuinness

It has been an ongoing debate in football for many years. The calls for goal line technology looked set to gain fresh impetus as an exasperated Didier Drogba claimed he had beaten Gianluigi Buffon with a first half free kick that the Italian stopper appeared palm out from behind his line. But his protests were to no avail.

Chelsea’s sense of injustice didn’t last long. Michael Essien levelled matters soon afterwards, reacting fastest to a deflected Frank Lampard shot to cancel out Vincenzo Iaquinta’s extremely well worked opener.

In a game that was high on drama and full of goals and talking points, Drogba was to have the last laugh with a late equaliser, securing a 2-2 draw that ensures Chelsea’s progress into the last eight.

The onus from the outset was on Juventus to attack, and that is exactly what the home side did.

Pavel Nedved headed over from an Alessandro Del Piero cross with less than a minute on the clock and the Blues conceded two corners within the first seven minutes.

Nedved exited proceedings through injury after 12 minutes, but this didn’t disrupt Juve’s rhythm and the Bianconeri were ahead six minutes later courtesy of a goal of the highest quality. Iaquinta flicked the ball to David Trezeguet, who played a return ball which set the former Udinese man away. He made no mistake, planting the ball past a prone Petr Cech.

Juve’s ageing talisman Del Piero almost added a second goal soon afterwards, forcing Cech into a hurried parry over the bar for a corner.

But as the half wore on the pressure exerted by the Old Lady waned and Chelsea began to gain some possession and put some pressure on Juventus’ back line.

Hiddink’s men were presented with a great opportunity to test Buffon before half time when the referee penalised Tiago for handball, when the ball had in fact struck his chest.

Drogba stepped up and hit an effort that Buffon failed to gather and then appeared to palm out from behind the line. Chelsea’s players thought they had scored, but it wasn’t given. Subsequent replays suggested they had every right to feel hard done by.

Their sense of injustice last barely five minutes. Essien reacted fastest as the ball came back off the underside of the crossbar from a deflected Lampard shot and prodded home from barely a yard out.

The Ghanaian could hardly contain his delight at scoring on his first start since August. It was a pivotal moment in the tie. Juventus would now need to score two goals without reply to go through.

Chelsea began the second half like a completely different team to the one that had looked harried and under near constant pressure from a side managed by their former boss, Claudio Ranieri.

His side were misplacing their passes, which drew derision from their home support, who greeted each mistake with a cacophony of groans.

However Juventus still threatened in fits and starts. David Trezeguet forced Cech into a save from a free kick after the keeper had picked up a booking for handling outside the box.

On 65 minutes the game took an other twist when Giorgio Chiellini was shown a second yellow card for taking down Drogba. The pendulum seemed to have swung firmly in Chelsea’s favour.

More drama was to follow. The ball struck the outstretched arms of Juliano Beletti from a Juventus free kick and the referee - amid chaotic scenes - gave a penalty. Del Piero was calmness personified as he stepped up and rolled the ball past Cech.

One more goal and Juve would be through. A baying home crowd sensed blood and vociferously urged their team on. Calmness was needed amongst the Chelsea ranks. The Serie A side poured forward looking for that crucial goal, which of course meant that there were gaps to be exploited at the back.

And exploit Chelsea did. Beletti broke free on the right and crossed for Drogba who slid the ball in to silence the Stadio Olimpico and crush Juve’s lingering hopes of progression.

It was the last significant act in a game that swung back and forth, and ultimately this thriller in Turin turned on the moment when the rampaging Essien stole in to beat Buffon just before half time.

Edited by Alan
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