Lampard’s good work undone by Kalou

Valencia 1 Chelsea 1

Roberto Soldado’s penalty with four minutes remaining denied Chelsea a potentially crucial Champions League victory.

Frank Lampard’s goal – a fine finish after he was picked out by Florent Malouda’s 56th-minute cross – looked like being the winner.

But shortly after coming on as a substitute for Lampard, Salomon Kalou inexplicably handled Sofiane Feghouli’s right-wing corner, gifting Soldado the chance to rescue a draw for Valencia.

Kalou’s shocking lapse will have annoyed Andre Villas-Boas even more than the pre-match talk that focused on Lampard’s recent omission – something which clearly irked Chelsea’s manager in the build-up to this encounter.

The England midfielder was restored to Villas-Boas’ starting line-up, which also included Juan Mata, who faced his former club.

Lampard answered his critics in the best possible way, producing an impressive performance and scoring the goal that should have been enough to leave his team three points clear at the top of Group E, which they now lead by a single point.

Chelsea might have been awarded an early penalty when defender Adil Rami clumsily bundled over Fernando Torres as the Spaniard galloped into the box after being gifted the ball by Valencia’s David Albelda.

The home side looked anxious at the back for much of the of the first half and Victor Ruiz almost put the ball into own net while denying Malouda with a last-ditch challenge.

Pablo Hernandez was at the centre of Valencia’s best work before the break, firing into the side netting from Jordi Alba’s left-wing cross and then sending a 30-yard volley into the arms of Petr Cech.

Anelka was denied in the final minute

The game exploded into life early in the second half when, within the space of five minutes, both teams came close to scoring, Valencia keeper Diego Alvez produced three stunning saves – two of them from Torres – and Lampard netted the opener.

Alvez dived to his left to superbly claw away Torres’ header from Jose Bosingwa’s fine cross, and seconds later David Luiz was just able to get his head to Miguel’s right-wing centre and deny the waiting Pablo a free header.

Ramires then raced onto Lampard’s ball over the top only to shoot straight at Alvez, who was quickly called into action again, this time producing an excellent point-blank save to thwart Torres after the striker had exchanged passes with Lampard.

Alvez pulled off another great stop to prevent an own goal by Victor Ruiz after the La Liga side failed to clear Lampard’s corner, but he could not save them again when more slack defending led to the deadlock being broken.

Malouda did well on the right and found an unmarked Lampard, who drilled home from 15 yards.

It took a great save from Cech to preserve the lead, the Chelsea keeper pushing over a shot from Pablo Piatti who had beaten the offside trap.

Cech also did well to keep out Feghouli’s deflected effort, before Piatti drove wide as Valencia desperately searched for an equaliser.

That equaliser looked beyond them when Cech dived to palm away Jonas’ 25-yarder.

But Cech was sent the wrong way by Soldado’s coolly taken spot-kick after Kalou’s moment of madness.

Kalou almost made amends when he set up fellow substitute Nicolas Anelka in the final minute, but yet again the outstanding Alvez stood firm, this time saving with his legs.