Blues in control of their own destiny

Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is a relieved man after his side escaped with a 2-2 Group H draw against Valencia at the Mestalla on Wednesday.
Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is a relieved man after his side escaped with a 2-2 Group H draw against Valencia at the Mestalla on Wednesday.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

LONDON • Frank Lampard has expressed his relief that Chelsea's hopes of reaching the last 16 of the Champions League are still in their own hands after they escaped with a 2-2 Group H draw against Valencia at the Mestalla on Wednesday.

The Blues were eight minutes away from qualifying with a match to spare when goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga's error handed Daniel Wass an equaliser.

They had fought back through strikes from Mateo Kovacic, his first goal of the season, and Christian Pulisic after Carlos Soler had nabbed the opener.

But Lampard's side will still go through if they win their final game at home against bottom side Lille on Dec 10, regardless of what happens when Valencia visit leaders Ajax.

Admitting his team were lucky to get away with a point with the hosts missing five gilt-edged opportunities to score, on top of the missed penalty by Dani Parejo, the Chelsea manager said: "You respect the opponent, the Champions League and how tough it is, and respect a stadium like this.

"It was a really tough match. But it does keep it in our hands. Now it is on us in the last game at home to Lille. There were positives and negatives out of the game, but that is a positive.

"We both had incredible chances. Maybe their chances were more clear-cut than ours. I wouldn't say I feel fortunate. Did I love the match? No, I didn't love it. It hasn't been many times this season where I have had to say, 'We kind of got away with that.'

"Credit to the players for their work-rate and hanging on in there, but sometimes, you have to be more secure than that."

The only blot on the copybook was an injury to top scorer Tammy Abraham, who left the pitch in a flood of tears, but the England striker later revealed it was not as severe as he initially feared.

He told the club's TV channel yesterday: "I got in (the dressing room) and was able to walk again, move about. Hopefully, it's just a bruise. It was a knee near my hip area, it's nothing too serious."

Maxi Gomez was the principal villain for Valencia as the Uruguay striker twice failed to find the net with the goal at his mercy, while Rodrigo also missed an open goal in stoppage time.

Los Che coach Albert Celades, whose side are two points behind Ajax and face an uphill task in Amsterdam to qualify for the last 16 for the first time since the 2012-13 season, was left to rue their profligacy in front of goal.

"We had by far the clearest chances, on top of the penalty," he said. "The key was that we didn't take them."

REUTERS, THE GUARDIAN

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2019, with the headline 'Blues in control of their own destiny'. Print Edition | Subscribe