x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Champions League: Di Matteo takes blame as Chelsea's Hazard gamble backfires

Chelsea were left facing the grim prospect of becoming the first Champions League holders to exit at the group stage after Roberto Di Matteo's side crashed to a 3-0 defeat by Juventus.

Juventus' Sebastian Giovinco knocks the ball past an outrushing Petr Cech to score the third against Chelsea.
Juventus' Sebastian Giovinco knocks the ball past an outrushing Petr Cech to score the third against Chelsea.

Roberto Di Matteo shouldered the blame after Chelsea crashed to defeat at Juventus to leave themselves on the brink of becoming the first Champions League holders not to qualify for the knockout stage.

The coach refused to deflect responsibility for his side's 3-0 loss in Turin - the club's heaviest ever in a group match - as the biggest selection gamble of his reign backfired spectacularly.

Fernando Torres was axed in favour of Eden Hazard, playing out of position as a striker, but the selection gamble failed to pay off.

Instead, goals from Fabio Quagliarella, Arturo Vidal and Sebastian Giovinco left the Stamford Bridge side facing the prospect of becoming the first holders to depart the competition before Christmas.

He said: "I'm responsible for the result. I'm responsible for the performance. It's a negative evening for us.

"If anyone has to take the blame, it's me. I selected a team I was convinced was the right team to win against Juventus, or get at least a draw, so the blame belongs to me."

Di Matteo defended his decision to axe Torres and play Hazard out of position in front of Juan Mata and Oscar.

"I didn't want to give the centre-backs any point of reference," he said.

"I'd rather have Hazard, Oscar and Mata interchanging positions and trying to find the space.

"Hazard probably had the first good chance for us, Oscar the second and Mata also found himself in front of the keeper.

"In terms of that transition, we were very dangerous and created some good opportunities."He added of fielding two right-backs: "I wanted to reinforce the midfield a bit, try to control the left side.

"The first goal was lucky for Juventus, a big deflection.

"The first goal is, a lot of times, decisive."

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

Chelsea were 2-0 just after the hour mark after Kwado Asamoah picked out Vidal, whose shot deflected off Ramires and through Cech's legs.

Giovinco came off the bench to seal the game, poking the ball beyond the onrushing Cech from 20 yards after a snap counter attack.

Di Matteo was left clutching at straws when assessing Chelsea's prospects of qualifying.

He said: "Well, mathematically, it's still possible. While there's hope you still try.

"Who says that Juventus aren't going to lose at Shakhtar?

"We just have to make we do our job at our end, win the last group game.

"With 10 points, normally ... usually, it's enough. Sometimes it's not. Sometimes it is."

Juventus' win saw them leapfrog Chelsea into second place and Angelo Alessio, the assistant manager, said: "We wanted to win and we managed to do so by playing a great game, at a high tempo, with continual pressing.

"We've got to keep going, we know nothing's changed and we still need to secure qualification in Donetsk."

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