Di Matteo - Chelsea must avenge Shakhtar loss
Shakhtar Donetsk after seeing his side beaten 2-1 by the Ukrainian champions in UEFA Champions League Group E. Chelsea were left chasing shadows for much of the night at Donetsk's Donbass Arena on Tuesday, and even an 88th-minute consolation from Brazilian starlet Oscar could not disguise the fact that the home side ran out worthy winners.
Mircea Lucescu's well-drilled team now enjoy a three-point lead over defending champions Chelsea in Group E, ahead of the return fixture between the sides at Stamford Bridge on 7 November. Chelsea will hope to exact swift revenge, and reclaim top spot, by prevailing in that encounter, but they were at least given reason to cheer by Juventus' unexpected 1-1 draw at Danish debutants FC Nordsjaelland.
The draw left the Italian champions a point behind the Blues in third place, but Juve will expect to win when Nordsjaelland visit Turin in two weeks' time, so Di Matteo knows that Chelsea will not be able to afford another slip-up.
"You have to analyse Shakhtar's performance correctly," said the Italian, who led Chelsea to their first ever Champions League success last season. "They're a very strong team, particularly at home, and they showed it tonight (Tuesday). Matches in the Champions League are always difficult and competitive. You only have to look at the results in our group to see that. "But we could have done better as a team. We still have a good chance to qualify for the next round but we absolutely have to win our next match at home to Shakhtar."
Oscar's goal, which took his tally in this season's competition to three, was the only bright moment on an evening when Chelsea lost Frank Lampard to an early injury on the occasion of his 100th UEFA appearance for the club. By then, Chelsea had already fallen behind to an Alex Teixeira goal in the third minute, after a long Razvan Rat throw-in was allowed to reach the edge of the area before ricocheting into the Brazilian's path via John Terry's arm.
The visitors were caught cold again early in the second minute, with Fernandinho doubling Shakhtar's lead after robbing Eden Hazard in midfield, and it was only in the closing stages that the Blues began to exert pressure. Di Matteo criticised his players for being too "individualistic" in the first half, and Shakhtar coach Mircea Lucescu said Chelsea's lackadaisical start to the match had helped the hosts assert their authority.
"We're playing better and better. This is probably the best game Shakhtar have played," said the Romanian. "We played spectacular football, and the score could easily have been 4-1 to us. Now it's time to think about the return match in London. "Chelsea were too relaxed at the start of the game, but when they started to press and try to score, it was too late. We were already in control of the match."
Chelsea had scored four goals in each of their three previous games, with Saturday's 4-2 comeback win at Tottenham Hotspur enabling them to preserve their four-point lead at the top of the Premier League. The challenge now is to ensure that Tuesday's setback does not unduly upset their momentum, ahead of back-to-back matches against Manchester United in the Premier League and the League Cup.
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