Chelsea suffered a Transylvanian nightmare as Didier Drogba suffered a serious injury during his side's lacklustre 0-0 draw against CFR Cluj in the Champions League on Wednesday.
Blues boss Luiz Felipe Scolari cut a forlorn figure as he trudged towards the dressing rooms at the Dr Constantin Radulescu stadium after Drogba was stretchered off with ligament damage that could keep the Ivory Coast striker out for several months.
It was a cruel blow for Drogba as Chelsea's talismanic targetman had only just returned from a knee injury that sidelined him for the first six weeks of the season.
As if that wasn't bad enough, Scolari had to endure the indignity of watching his collection of superstars fail to make any impression against the unheralded Romanian champions, who opened their first ever Champions League campaign with an astonishing win over AS Roma a fortnight ago.
Chelsea are still unbeaten and won't be concerned about their position in Group A, but their hopes of qualifying as group winners can only be damaged if Drogba is ruled out for a long spell.
“We did not play well. I know this and the players know this,” Scolari said. “But in this situation one point is better than zero points.
“Cluj won against Roma and were confident. They wanted to show the people they are a good side. They ran and ran for 95 minutes.
“I was without several players already and then there was the problem with Didier (Drogba) as well, but injuries in football is normal.”
Chelsea keeper Petr Cech added: “They had nothing to lose because no-one expected them to get anything.
“For them a point is like a victory and you can see from the reaction that they are very happy with that. We are disappointed because we didn't create many chances.”
Scolari had already been forced to play Wayne Bridge instead of Ashley Cole after the England left-back suffered a back injury earlier this week, while Drogba returned to European action for the first time since his red card in last season's Champions League final.
Just seven years ago Cluj were playing in the third tier of Romanian football but they announced their arrival in Europe's elite competition with a stunning 2-1 win over Roma.
Maurizio Trombetta's side quickly set about proving that result was no fluke as they hustled Chelsea out of their stride.
Cech had to be alert in the opening minute, racing out of his area to beat Cluj midfielder Sebastian Dubarbier to a dangerous through ball.
Chelsea were clearly unsettled by Cluj's high-tempo start. John Terry and Mikel John Obi made a hash of clearing a long punt forward, giving Yssof Kone the chance to try a long-range lob that looped over the crossbar.
Frank Lampard linked neatly with Drogba on the edge of the Cluj box to set up Salomon Kalou, but the forward scuffed his shot wide.
Scolari grew more frustrated as the half wore on. While Cluj lacked the cutting edge to really test Cech, they were making their more illustrious opponents look distinctly average and the Brazilian showed his anger with a series of frenzied touchline instructions to his players.
A stray pass from Jose Bosingwa let in Cluj left-back Alvaro Pereira, who threaded a pass Kone. The Ivory Coast forward's cross bypassed Terry and reached Eugen Trica but he miscued an attempted volley.
Pereira smashed a shot wide from Trica's pass soon after and the Cluj fans raised the volume in response to their side's impressive display.
The Blues briefly flickered into life when Nicolas Anelka, on for Kalou, found space on the edge of the Cluj box and clipped a short ball towards Lampard at the near post, but the England midfielder couldn't get his shot on target.
But then Drogba caught his studs as he tried to reach a cross from Florent Malouda on the hour and went down in agony.
The powerful forward was treated for several minutes on the pitch before being carried off clearly still in pain as he covered his face with his arm.
That took the wind out of Chelsea's sails and Trica almost won it for Cluj in the 80th minute as his curling strike beat Cech and hit the outside of the far post.
That wasn't the end of the trouble for Chelsea as Cech produced a superb save to deny Pereira in the 85th minute.
Yet the visitors could have snatched an undeserved win if Anelka had reacted quicker to a last-minute chance.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!