By Kieran Lovelock
Despite all of the trouble surrounding Chelsea in recent weeks perhaps the biggest sign of desperation came in the strength of Carlo Ancelotti’s team selection in this meaningless match away to Marseille.
Chelsea had just about their best eleven but still lost 1-0 to the French Champions. One can only think that the reason the Chelsea manager fielded the likes of Terry, Cech, Drogba and Malouda was simply to get back to winning ways, but instead he had his misery complied as he watched his team fai to score in a Champions League for the first time this season.
The first half was a lively affair and there wasn’t much in it. Marseille did have the ball in the net through Gabriel Heinze, however as the former Manchester United left back peeled away to celebrate scoring against his former Premiership rivals, he was greeted by the sight of the linesman’s flag signaling that he was in an offside position.
Then on forty three minutes controversy came as Chelsea’s Florent Malouda was hacked down in the area by Soulemayne Diawara. Referee Vladislav Bezborov (in his first Champions League game) gave a penalty and then, facing no complaints from the Marseille players, reversed his decision. The linesman insisted that Diawara had got the ball and advised the referee to award Chelsea a corner, foolishly the referee took his assistant’s advice and the Blues missed out on a golden opportunity to go ahead.
In the second half Marseille began to pile on the pressure as Ivanovic produced a fantastic last ditch challenge to keep Chelsea in it. Ancelotti then brought on three youngsters in Sturridge, Bruma and Van Aanholt for the experience of Terry, Bosingwa and Drogba and Marseille took advantage.
The goal when it came was somewhat of typical of Chelsea in recent weeks. An innocuous ball through the middle of the defence in the 81st minute somehow found its way to Brandao who did nothing more than swing his leg at it to confirm Marseille’s presence in the last 16 of the Champions League.
This match was a real milestone for Marseille as it showed how far they have come in a short space of time. For Chelsea however it was another sign that the Champions of England may not be as strong as everyone thought they were.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Bosingwa (Van Aanholt 80), Terry (Bruma 72), Ivanovic, Ferreria; Essien, Ramires, McEachran; Malouda, Drogba (Sturridge 62), Kalou.
Marseille (4-4-2): Mandana; Taiwao, Diawara, Heinze, Kabore; Cheyrou, N’Diaye (Ayew 83), Abriel (Ayew 62) , Valbuea (Gonzalez 62); Brandoe, Remy
Man of the Match: Gabriel Heinze