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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
This wasn't in the script. Chelsea were supposed to go to Italy, ease their way past a struggling Roma side and secure their place in the knock-out stages with two games to spare. The side that had suffered five consecutive defeats and were hovering above Serie A's relegation zone were supposed to be easy pickings. Instead, Luiz Felipe Scolari's men suffered a humiliating defeat that significantly reduces their lead in the group and casts a thin shadow of doubt over their ability to even make the next stage. A tense visit to Bordeaux awaits before they play host to Cluj in the final game. Straight-forward? Not when you recall that the Romanians won their game in Italy.

Chelsea don't lose many games by a two goal margin and this result will rattle them, blowing away their air of invincibility. It wasn't so much the scoreline as the manner of the defeat that shocked observers. They dominated for the first half hour, calmly knocking the ball about on the slick, rain-soaked surface and peppering Doni's goal with a series of sparkling long drives. Then from nowhere, Roma suddenly remembered that they could play as well. Luciano Spalletti, having fielded no strikers at Stamford Bridge, plumped for two here and his bold decision paid dividends. Of course, a few nice passes and a strike partnership in itself shouldn't have been an issue, plenty of teams have tried and failed to play football against Chelsea, but Scolari's side were uncharacteristically wobbly at the back. The usually unflappable John Terry was to blame for Roma's first, Terry and Alex combined to allow the second and John Obi Mikel's rash lunge was the principle cause of the third. With every shot on goal, Luciano Spalletti's side grew in confidence and, in the end, it could have been a lot worse. There will be plenty for Scolari to talk about on the flight back to London.

Terry's late goal only served to flatter Chelsea, especially as he appeared to use his arm to control the ball in the build-up. The dismissal of Deco, five minutes later, for the heinous crime of taking a free-kick too quickly, summed up their night better. It was a ludicrous decision that will hit Scolari with a suspension where it hurts most, in the midfield. With Michael Essien and Michael Ballack both still out, it will almost certainly mean moving one of the spare right-backs into the centre for the crucial clash with Bordeaux. More for the Brazilian boss to worry about.

Spalletti's position as manager had been in doubt, but this should keep him in a job for a few more weeks at least. From a man under pressure, he became a man on top of his team, quite literally in fact, when he ran off the touchline in celebration of the third goal and piled on top of his players' human pyramid of celebration. This was a result that restores pride to the crumbling Roman empire and it is one that blows Group A wide open. It may yet take some time for Chelsea to get over this.

SAFE HANDS - Chelsea would have taken a commanding early lead had it not been for the agility of Roma goalkeeper Doni. His stop on the half-hour mark, from a ferocious Frank Lampard drive, ended Chelsea's opening period of pressure and served as a foundation for a fine victory.

CLUELESS - Referee Luis Medina Cantalejo hit Chelsea with a double whammy. First he denied Joe Cole what looked to be a solid claim for a penalty, then he showed a red card to Deco for taking a free-kick too quickly. The first was one of those decisions that are occasionally withheld from an away team, the second was scandalously bad. Poor performance from the Spaniard.

MISS OF THE DAY -Florent Malouda had a perfect chance to put Chelsea back in the game just before the break, romping down the left flank. The French winger had Frank Lampard and Nicolas Anelka in the box to aim at but decided to go alone, with predictable results. It's anybody's guess as to where that ball is now.

PUNTERS RANT - Chelsea? Losing by two clear goals? It's practically unheard of. With Roma in such shocking form, this should have been an away banker. Any one of those early shots from Frank Lampard could have crushed Roma's spirit, but it wasn't to be.

MAN OF THE MATCH - Mirko Vucinic was wasted out wide at Stamford Bridge, but with the freedom to attack, he excelled. His crashing drive put Roma two goals up, but it was his surging run for the third goal that sealed the game. A fine performance



Doni 8, Christian Panucci 7, Cicinho 7, Juan, Philippe Mexes 7, David Pizarro 7, Mirko Vucinic 8 (John Arne Riise 6), Francesco Totti 7 (Julio Baptista 7), Daniele De Rossi 7, Simone Perrotta 7, Matteo Brighi 7


Petr Cech 7, Frank Lampard 7, Joe Cole 6 (Juliano Belletti 6), John Obi Mikel 5, Florent Malouda 6 (Didier Drogba 6), Jose Bosingwa 6 (Salomon Kalou 6), Wayne Bridge 6, Deco 6, John Terry 5, Alex 5, Nicolas Anelka 5

Yellow Cards - Deco (Chelsea), Perrotta (Roma)

Red Cards - Deco (Chelsea)

Attendance 38,425