RDM takes blame as Blues on brink
Juventus 3 Chelsea 0
Roberto Di Matteo last night admitted he was to blame after Chelsea crashed to defeat at Juventus to leave themselves on the brink of becoming the first Champions League holders not to qualify for the knockout stage.
By Ben Rumsby
Blues boss Di Matteo refused to deflect responsibility for the 3-0 loss in Turin — the club’s heaviest ever in a group match — as the biggest selection gamble of his reign backfired spectacularly.
The result piled the pressure on the Italian, who acknowledged he was feeling the heat just six months after masterminding the most glorious moment in the club’s history.
Chelsea now need to win their final Group E game against FC Nordsjaelland and hope Shakhtar Donetsk beat Juve, despite having already qualified for the knockout stage.
If not, there is no telling how trigger-happy owner Roman Abramovich will react, especially with Pep Guardiola still waiting in the wings.
Di Matteo risked the Russian’s wrath by dropping Fernando Torres and radically overhauling his tactics last night and he took full responsibility afterwards.
He said: “I’m responsible for the result. I’m responsible for the performance. It’s a negative evening for us.
“If anyone has to take the blame, it’s me. I selected a team I was convinced was the right team to win against Juventus, or get at least a draw, so the blame belongs to me.”
He added: “I’m responsible for positive and negative results. This is what I do.’’
Di Matteo took more than an hour to emerge for his post-match press conference but he said that was not because he had been grilled by senior club executives.
Asked if it would be unfair to sack him given all he had achieved last season, he said: “I’m the wrong person to answer that question.”
He added: “At the moment, I think, with the team, we are all in it together.
“At the moment, I am here and I think I will be for the future. As far as I’m concerned, I’ll keep working.”
Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech admitted his side’s hopes of retaining the Champions League are hanging by a thread.
Cech said: “I think we showed much better spirit than in the last games. We did well and created some chances but in such an important game if you create chances you have to take them and that was the difference.
“We said before the game we had our destiny in our own hands but not any more. Now we have to do our bit to win our last game and hope destiny will be kind to us.
“It is a very sad moment because last season the Champions League was like a dream. I wouldn’t say it’s anightmare but it’s a huge disappointment.”
If Di Matteo’s line-up was meant to ease the defensive jitters that had seen Chelsea fail to keep a clean sheet for nine matches, it took less than four minutes for them to re-emerge when they twice nearly gifted Juventus the lead, Stephan Lichtsteiner going close before Cech somehow turned his volley onto the post.
The Blues almost scored a sensational breakaway goal in the ninth minute when Oscar ran 70 yards, beating three men before feeding Eden Hazard, whose shot ricocheted behind off Gianluigi Buffon’s legs.
Normal service resumed and, when Chelsea fell asleep at a corner, Claudio Marchisio forced a smart Cech stop.
But Oscar almost produced a goal out of nothing again when he raced onto Ramires’ pass, Leonardo Bonucci getting back to block.
And that proved crucial as Juventus took the lead in unconventional fashion seven minutes from half-time, Fabio Quagliarella reacting to redirect Andrea Pirlo’s low drive past Cech, who could not keep the ball out having already moved to cover the original shot.
It would have been 2-0 seconds later but for the latest incredible goal-line clearance in Ashley Cole’s career, the full-back getting back to prevent Kwadwo Asamoah’s cross being bundled home by Stephan Lichtsteiner.
Chelsea survived a penalty scare five minutes into the second half when Mirko Vucinic threw himself down under pressure from Gary Cahill and wasted a free-kick of their own when Juan Mata hit the wall.
Di Matteo took action by sending on Victor Moses for Cesar Azpilicueta on the hour but Chelsea were 2-0 behind a minute later in shambolic circumstances.
Their defence was nowhere to be seen as Asamoah picked out Vidal, whose shot deflected off Ramires and through the luckless Cech’s legs.
Juve threatened a third goal before Di Matteo finally turned to Torres, with John Obi Mikel making way.
Vucinic produced a Torres-like miss six yards out before Giovinco came off the bench to seal the game on the break, poking the ball beyond the onrushing Cech from 20 yards.
JUVENTUS: Buffon, Barzagli, Bonucci, Chiellini, Lichtsteiner (Caceres 68), Vidal, Pirlo, Marchisio, Asamoah, Quagliarella (Pogba 89), Vucinic (Giovinco 83).
CHELSEA: Cech, Azpilicueta (Moses 60), Luiz, Cahill, Ivanovic, Cole, Ramires, Mikel (Torres 71), Hazard, Mata, Oscar.
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey).
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved