New-look Chelsea fail in Europe as Lampard limps off
John Terry returns but dismal Blues fluff their lines and face Champions League battle
Shakhtar Donetsk 2 Chelsea 1. John Terry donned the captain's armband, complete with anti-racist message, as he returned to action for Chelsea against Shakhtar Donetsk, but he was unable to prevent the Blues from slipping to a damaging defeat, which jeopardises their chances of making into the knock-out stages of the Champions League.
"Chelsea are facing a battle to avoid becoming the first holders of the Champions League to fail to progress beyond the group stages after a woeful defeat in Donetsk," warns The Independent.
Goals from Brazilian duo Alex Teixeira and Fernandinho were enough for the vibrant and energetic Ukranian team, who held on despite a late consolation from Chelsea's own Brazilian, Oscar.
Chelsea now lie second in their group, three points behind Shakhtar, one point ahead of Juventus, who were held to a surprise draw by Danish minnows Nordsjaelland. The result in Scandinavia was the only good news for Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo last night.
As The Guardian reports, he was "forced to defend a dismal performance from the striker Fernando Torres while Frank Lampard, on his 100th European appearance for the club, was forced off with a serious-looking calf strain that will require a scan". He is now a doubt for the Blues' clash with Manchester United at the weekend.
Afterwards Di Matteo admitted that his side now had to win their two remaining home games against Shakhtar and Nordsjaelland. They also face a trip to Italy to play Juventus, and the result there could also prove pivotal.
However, former Chelsea forward Tony Cascarino, now a columnist for The Times, refuses to be downheartened. "When you play in such a new, exciting style, not every performance will come off," he says. "There will be days when it doesn’t quite happen and not every pass and shot is successful."
He says that Di Matteo has overseen "the most dramatic change in style of play by any English club over the past ten years". The "ponderous" midfield pumping balls up to Didier Drogba is a thing of the past. Now Chelsea rely on "a parade of small, skilful players running rings around the opposition with clever passing moves".