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Juve Fall To Chelsea

Chelsea are through to the UEFA Champions League quarter-finals for the third year running after overcoming Juventus 3-2 on aggregate following an exciting 2-2 draw at the Stadio Olimpico.

Vincenzo Iaquinta wiped out Didier Drogba’s first-leg goal after 19 minutes, yet Juve were left needing to score twice more after Michael Essien – making his first start after six months out with a cruciate ligament injury – struck in first-half added time. And though Alessandro Del Piero’s second-half penalty gave the Bianconeri hope, Claudio Ranieri’s men first lost Giorgio Chiellini to a red card on 70 minutes and then the tie as Drogba equalised seven minutes from time.

With Juventus needing to overturn a first-leg deficit and Ranieri limited in his midfield options due to myriad injury problems, the former Chelsea coach opted for a 4-3-3 formation for the first time this season. The hosts began well, David Trezeguet heading Cristian Molinaro’s cross over in the first minute, but were soon cursing their luck as Pavel Nedvěd, who had begun the game strongly, was replaced on 12 minutes by Hasan Salihamidžić. Iaquinta was also lively, dropping deep to supplement the midfield and combining well with his two strike partners. The latter was no better exemplified than with his magnificent opening goal, as the forward deftly flicked a long ball to Trezeguet, raced on to the Frenchman’s perfect angled pass and applied a sublime clipped finish.

Chelsea could find no immediate reaction and, midway through the first half, Petr Čech first had to turn a dipping shot from Del Piero over the bar before rushing out to thwart the marauding Iaquinta. Still, though, the visitors remained assured in possession, safe in the knowledge that an away goal would leave the Turin side requiring two more to progress.

That goal came in an eventful final minute of the half, the drama starting when Gianluigi Buffon dived low to claw away Drogba’s free-kick at the foot of his left post. Chelsea were soon celebrating, however, as Frank Lampard’s deflected long-range shot bounced off the underside of the bar and into the path of the onrushing Essien who poked in his first goal since April last year. The introduction of Sebastian Giovinco for Iaquinta helped Juve, initially shell-shocked by the Ghanaian’s goal, find renewed purpose after the break. The diminutive substitute twice fired over and Trezeguet forced a fine save from Čech with a glancing header from Del Piero’s clever cross.

Even Chiellini’s dismissal failed to dampen Juve’s ardour, and they were offered a lifeline when Del Piero’s free-kick was handled in the wall by substitute Juliano Belletti. Del Piero sent Čech the wrong way from the spot to set up a rousing finale. The Curva Scirea willed their side on but the crucial fourth goal of the night went Chelsea’s way as Ballack fed Belletti down the right and the full-back centred for Drogba to slot in from close range.

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