Monday, July 15, 2024

Drogba Champions´ League agony

Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari faces an injury crisis that could wreck his unbeaten start after Didier Drogba suffered knee ligament damage in the goalless Champions League draw against CFR Cluj.

Drogba could be out of action for up to three months as a result of the injury he sustained early in the second half at the Dr Constantin Radulescu stadium on Wednesday.

The Ivory Coast striker, who was stretchered off in agony and taken to hospital for scans, had only just returned from a knee problem that kept him out at the start of the season.

With Michael Essien, Deco, Joe Cole and Ricardo Carvalho already sidelined, the last thing Scolari needed was to see his talismanic targetman leave the stadium on crutches and with his right leg in a brace.

As if that was not bad enough, Blues captain John Terry has a back problem, his defensive partner Alex is nursing an injury and Ashley Cole was missing in Cluj with lower back pain.

The strain of being without so many key players could easily take its toll on even Chelsea's huge squad and Scolari, unbeaten in nine matches since taking charge, is bracing himself to count the walking wounded ahead of Sunday's Premier League clash against Aston Villa.

“I know nothing about Drogba, I just came into the room and he is with the doctor,” Scolari said. “Alex said he had a problem and can't move, John Terry is hurt in the back.

“Ashley felt his back before yesterday and it was impossible to play. For Sunday, he is ready.

“I have a few days to build the team again. One player is better than another for the game Sunday. I don't know now what the possibilities I have for Sunday are, maybe after Thursday I have a chance to say something more.”

It was a chastening experience for Chelsea, who left Transylvania glad to take a point after being outplayed for long periods by the Romanian champions.

Scolari's side lacked any bite in the birthplace of Dracula and only the width of the post and Petr Cech's excellence preserved a point for the Premier League leaders.

“The result is okay given we didn't play well,” Scolari said. “It was difficult for us. The players and I know that a point is okay. They (Cluj) beat Roma, they are confident, they're playing at home, they wanted to show to the people they are very good.

“We knew this and we prepared but we missed one or two times in front of goal. Nil-nil is not a bad result.”

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.

Alvaro Pereira smashed a shot wide from Eugen 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.

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 was not 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.

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