Bayer Leverkusen 2 Chelsea 1: Last-minute header stuns Blues
Chelsea squandered a 1-0 lead as Bayer Leverkusen fought back with goals from Eren Derdiyok and Manuel Friedrich
A stoppage time Manuel Friedrich header consigned Chelsea to their third defeat in five games and set up a nervy climax to the Champions League group stages for André Villas-Boas’s men.
The Blues took the lead early in the second half through Didier Drogba but Eren Derdiyok hauled Leverkusen level, before Friedrich broke Chelsea hearts in the dying seconds with a late winner.
The result leaves Chelsea needing either a goalless draw or a win against Valencia in two weeks’ time to secure their place in the last 16.
The dramatic end to the game was in stark contrast to the opening half-hour as neither side threatened.
Chelsea showed flashes of attacking threat down the left through José Bosingwa, who was deputising at left-back for the injured Ashley Cole.
But the game burst into life after 30 minutes when Leverkusen nearly snatched the lead. A corner from Gonzalo Castro was met by former Blues midfielder Michael Ballack, who was denied by the crossbar.
Drogba nearly put the Blues in front moments later. Daniel Sturridge found the Ivorian striker in space and he rounded goalkeeper Bernd Leno but fired wide.
However, the chance seemed to spark Chelsea into life. Sturridge won the ball on the edge of the Leverkusen box and squared it Juan Mata, who on his weaker right-foot fired it straight at Leno.
Frank Lampard then found himself on the edge of the area and with no room to shoot, the midfielder squared to Sturridge – but the 22-year-old’s shot was comfortably saved by Leno.
Chelsea took the lead three minutes into the second half. An excellent ball by Sturridge found Drogba with his back to goal and the striker turned brilliantly to fire a low effort into the bottom corner for his 34th Champions League goal.
The Bundesliga outfit nearly equalised just before the half-hour mark. Ballack again found himself in space in the Chelsea box – but Petr Cech saved the midfielder’s low left-footed strike. Impressive throughout, the 35-year-old former Germany captain was at the heart of all things good for Leverkusen.
Cech again kept Chelsea in front, this time saving Stefan Kiessling’s close-range effort.
However, the home side restored parity with 17 minutes to go. A cross from Sindey Sam found substitute Derdiyok, who headed into the Chelsea net with his first touch after the Blues’ defence failed to see the Swiss forward running towards the back post.
Referee Viktor Kassai waved away a strong Chelsea penalty appeal in the 78th minute after Drogba was pulled down in the box.
And Friedrich grabbed the winner in the 91st minute, nodding home from a Gonzalo corner. The late strike denied Chelsea a valuable point and ensured Leverkusen’s progression into the last 16.
Chelsea manager André Villas-Boas said:
“Our focus must be at the moment on Valencia at home. We are still in front of Valencia but it will be a good head-to-head battle. It’s tough for the English clubs at the moment in the Champions League but we have to face it, put on a brave face and get back to the wins. We’ve been suffering a lot, conceding a lot of goals, [but] we haven’t conceded from a corner for a long time. We were compact and disciplined in set plays but one detail in the last moment [cost us]. There are no perfect organisations. One small detail makes the whole difference and in this competition you pay heavily. We need to get the concentration and focus right. No excuses – if we have to go one more step up that’s what we have to do.”
Bayer Leverkusen: Bernd Leno, Michal Kadlec (Eren Derdiyok, 71), Gonzalo Castro, Daniel Schwaab (Andre SchÃ¼rrle, 57), Manuel Friedrich, Ã–mer Toprak, Michael Ballack, Sidney Sam, Lars Bender, Simon Rolfes, Stefan KieÃŸling (Bastian Oczipka, 83).
Chelsea: Petr Cech, David Luiz (Alex, 69), John Terry, Branislav Ivanovic, José Bosingwa, Raul Meireles (John Obi Mikel, 80), Ramires, Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Daniel Sturridge, Juan Mata (Florent Malouda, 66).