More woe for AVB as Chelsea lose again

Bayer Leverkusen 2 Chelsea 1

Chelsea’s place in the knockout stage of the Champions League is in serious doubt after Manuel Friedrich’s injury-time goal in Germany.

Friedrich’s header from Gonzalo Castro’s corner took Bayer Leverkusen to the top of Group E and through to the next phase of the tournament, which Chelsea will miss out on if they lose to Valencia at Stamford Bridge in their final group game.

This result will do nothing to ease the pressure on manager Andre Villas-Boas, whose side have now lost four of their last seven matches and again looked disorganised at the back.

Didier Drogba put them ahead early in the second half, getting the better of Friedrich and firing into the bottom corner after being found by Daniel Sturridge.

But Chelsea’s recent defensive shortcomings were evident again, not least when they failed to deal with a routine ball into the box and Sidney Sam’s cross was headed in by Eren Derdiyok.

It was Derdiyok’s first touch after coming on as a substitute and gave Leverkusen a deserved equaliser, although they were fortunate not to concede a late penalty when Drogba appeared to be fouled by Lars Bender.

Had that decision gone their way, Villas-Boas’ men might well have got the victory that would have taken them into the last 16.

And to make matters worse for them, Friedrich came up with a last-gasp winner – but the bigger picture remains the same, as the Blues would still have faced Valencia needing a draw to qualify.

Drogba’s goal came after a cagey first half in which ex-Chelsea midfielder Michael Ballack very nearly scored against his former club.

Ballack, sporting Petr Cech-style headgear to protect a broken nose, headed Castro’s right-wing corner against the bar.

Chelsea’s best chance of the opening period came when Sturridge threaded a perfect pass through to Drogba, who rounded keeper Bernd Leno but in doing so took a heavy touch, and as a result fired high and wide from an acute angle.

But when Sturridge set him up again three minutes after the interval, Drogba made no mistake.

Leverkusen responded in determined fashion and Ballack came close to scoring on two more occassions.

His overhead kick was tipped over by keeper Cech, who seconds later produced a fine point-blank save to deny Ballack after Andre Schurrle’s header had found its way through a crowd of players.

Chelsea looked dangerous on the break and the impressive Sturridge sprinted half the length of the pitch before shooting at Leno’s legs.

After surviving that scare, the home team levelled on 72 minutes with the help of some shoddy defending.

After Castro’s delivery into the box caught Chelsea napping, an unmarked Sam lifted the ball beyond the onrushing Cech, and Derdiyok headed over John Terry and into the net.

And worse followed for the visitors when Friedrich climbed above substitute Alex and powered in a magnificent header from 12 yards out.

Valencia, who walloped Genk 7-0, will head to west London the week after next knowing they have a great chance of progressing, but the Premier League side’s destiny remains in their own hands.

As well as a win for Chelsea, a goalless or 1-1 draw would take them through. Any other result would send them out.

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