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Chelsea and Di Matteo on the brink as Juventus show them no mercy

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 21, 2012

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in Turin

Roberto Di Matteo went from UEFA Champions League hero to zero last night as Chelsea crashed to defeat at Juventus and slipped to the brink of an embarrassing exit from the competition.

Di Matteo's biggest selection gamble since he took charge backfired as goals from Fabio Quagliarella, Arturo Vidal and Sebastian Giovinco left the Blues facing the prospect of becoming the first holders to depart the competition before Christmas.

Chelsea slumped to third place in Group E with one match remaining and must win against Nordsjaelland in two weeks' time and hope Shakhtar Donetsk beat Juve, despite the Ukrainian side having qualified for the last 16 themselves last night.

That would be the equal of any let-off the European champions enjoyed en route to last season's astonishing Champions League triumph, which ultimately prevented owner Roman Abramovich dispensing with Di Matteo.

With Pep Guardiola supposedly waiting in the wings, Di Matteo could find himself on borrowed time barring another dramatic turnaround.

The same could be said of the Chelsea career of Fernando Torres, who was axed, although David Luiz produced enough hapless moments for the pair of them.

Di Matteo's other changes prompted memories of ex-boss Andre Villas-Boas's so-called 'suicide-note' selection at Napoli last season, with the Blues' chief playing without a recognised striker and fielding Cesar Azpilicueta in front of Branislav Ivanovic.

If the 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 Petr Cech somehow turned his volley onto the post.

Juventus took the lead in unconventional fashion seven minutes from half-time, Quagliarella reacting to redirect Andrea Pirlo's drive past Cech, who could not keep the ball out having already moved to cover the original shot.

Forced on to the front foot, the visitors ended the first half on top but they were back to leaving far too much space in behind after the restart.

Pirlo was seeing more and more of the ball and his long-range shot was deflected wide in between Quagliarella sending another tame shot at Cech and failing to round the goalkeeper after Luiz played him onside.

Di Matteo took action by sending on Victor Moses for Azpilicueta on the hour but Chelsea were 2-0 behind a minute later in shambolic circumstances.

Their defence was nowhere to be seen as Kwadwo Asamoah picked out Vidal, whose shot deflected off Ramires and went through the admittedly luckless Cech's legs.

Lichtsteiner departed for Martin Caceres but there was no sign of a comeback as Juve threatened a third goal before Di Matteo finally turned to Torres, with John Obi Mikel making way.

Mirko Vucinic produced a Torres-like miss six yards out and Ramires was booked for sending Giorgio Chiellini sprawling.

Chelsea tried to respond but Torres made no impression and Giovinco came off the bench to seal the game on the break, poking the ball beyond the onrushing Cech from 20 yards.

Manchester United got burned once more on their return to 'Hell' as Galatasaray ended their 100 per cent record in Champions League Group H last night.

Burak Yilmaz's second-half goal was enough to give the Turkish side a deserved victory and take them to the brink of qualification for the knockout stage.

United's position in the last 16 was already confirmed so the damage, beyond any sustained as a result of the ear-splitting din, cannot be compared to the tumult that unfolded on their first meeting with Galatasaray in Istanbul 19 years ago.

Celtic, meanwhile, followed up their excellent defeat of Barcelona with a less then perfect 2-1 loss at Benfica. Goals from Ola John and Ezequiel Garay either side of a Georgios Samaras strike earned the Portuguese a Group G win.

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