Oscar strikes twice, but Juventus salvages draw with Chelsea
London: Storming into an early 2-0 lead and with a new Brazilian playmaker scoring spectacular goals, Chelsea could hardly have made a better start to the defense of its Champions League title.
By the end of Wednesday`s match against Juventus, however, the European champions were learning the hard way how hard it will be to retain club football`s most prestigious prize.
Chelsea produced an increasingly ragged display at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday to draw 2-2 with the rejuvenated Italian giants, whose equalizer came with 10 minutes to go from substitute Fabio Quagliarella.
"We are disappointed and a little bit deflated to get in a great position to win the game and come away with only a draw,`` said Chelsea manager Roberto di Matteo, lamenting John Obi Mikel`s loss of possession that led to Quagliarella`s goal. "We should have closed the game and brought the win home.``
The positive note from an otherwise average performance by the Premier League leaders was the display of Oscar in his first start for the club following his 25 million pounds (then $38 million) move from Brazilian club Internacional in the summer.
The 21-year-old playmaker scored two long-range goals - the first with the aid of a deflection and the second a stunning curler - in a two-minute span to put Chelsea in a commanding position after 33 minutes.
Some neat, typically Brazilian touches had the home fans in raptures at times and he looks to be the schemer the club has been looking for as they seek to add some guile to a team renowned for its defensive fortitude.
"It was a great debut for Oscar,`` said Di Matteo, who has been keen not to overuse the 21-year-old player too early after his big-money move from his home country. "He did a perfect job tactically and scored two goals.
"It`s great to see we have a player like him in our ranks.``
Chelsea is trying to become the first team to successfully defend the Champions League since its inception in 1992, a task branded "impossible`` by Di Matteo on the eve of the match.
There was a celebratory pre-match atmosphere as members of the armed forces paraded around the pitch with the trophy won in dramatic circumstances four months ago - on penalties against Bayern Munich at the home of the German side.
And when Oscar - wearing the No. 11 shirt vacated by Didier Drogba - produced his moments of magic, it seemed Juve had given itself too much to do.
By that stage, Italy`s best hope for the title had wasted great chances through Claudio Marchisio and Mirko Vucinic and the movement of diminutive schemers Sebastian Giovinco and Arturo Vidal was giving the home defense plenty of problems.
It was no surprise when Juventus pulled a goal back, Frank Lampard giving Vidal too much time to cut inside and drive a low shot through the legs of John Terry and into the net. From then on, the Italians had the initiative.
Chelsea retreated, deploying the tactics that served them so well in the competition last season, and initially it worked as Juve started to run out of ideas up front despite the increasing influence of Italy star Andrea Pirlo.
However, Quagliarella was introduced in the 74th minute and equalized soon afterward. Mikel was made to pay for a dreadful pass out from the back and then failing to close down Marchisio, who slipped a pass through to Quagliarella to finish through Cech`s legs.
Quagliarella gave Chelsea fans a heart-stopping moment late on when he curled an effort against the top of the bar.
"We could have won it, we could have lost it but that`s football,`` said Juventus technical director Massimo Carrera, who was in charge while coach Antonio Conte sat in the stands because of a 10-month touchline suspension for match-fixing violations.
"We stepped it up and we just proved tonight we can play European competition at this level.``