x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Chelsea still waiting to qualify

Last season's finalists are still not assured of a place in the last 16 of the Champions League after a 1-1 draw in Bordeaux.

Chelsea's Frank Lampard, right, during the 1-1 draw with Bordeaux.
Chelsea's Frank Lampard, right, during the 1-1 draw with Bordeaux.

Frank Lampard was sent off and Big Phil Scolari's hard-boiled brow grows increasingly more furrowed by the match. The lamenting Chelsea manager appears to be struggling to fathom what is going on with his side in the Champions League after their latest botched attempt to get out of Group A. A 1-1 draw of feverish proportions at Bordeaux on Wednesday evening leaves it all up in the air. The winners and runners-up rosettes of the group, and even the Uefa Cup place that goes with third, will have to be ironed out on what could yet be an uncompromising final day. Chelsea have seen two chances to go forth drift away, and must confront a stomach-curdling home fixture with the have-a-go-heroes of CFR Cluj in a third and final game of chance. After departing Bordeaux, Chelsea were not even top of the group, relegated to second place by AS Roma's 3-1 away win over Cluj. Chelsea, of course, went to Bordeaux having hemorrhaged goals in a 3-1 loss to Roma, and were subjected to an often frantic night against the French side. More than 30,000 fans appeared to get at them as much the home players. Chelsea seemed to be running on fumes by the end. One could scarcely believe Chelsea walloped this side 4-0 in their opener at Stamford Bridge. If the Londoners somehow contrive to lose to Cluj, and Bordeaux manage a draw in Rome, they would still stumble on. The only foreseeable problem for Scolari's side would be a Bordeaux win at Roma and a draw with Cluj, which in this current state of uncertainty, is not farcical. Such a scenario would place Chelsea into a head-to-head with Roma, and would see the Italian side into the next phase. Unlikely one may think, but who would have guessed last season's beaten finalists would have found themselves gulping for air at such a late stage of proceedings. Cluj are out of Europe, but remain capable of providing a wicked little night having held Chelsea to a draw, and upsetting Roma away from Transylvania. This could yet all spiral out of control for Chelsea, despite knowing for some time they had the home comfort of facing the Romanians in their final outing. A win would do it, but a win in Bordeaux would have done it. As was the way in Cluj, Petr Cech rescued them with some sparkling saves. Before he departed late on for a second booking, Lampard played Nicolas Anelka in for the opening goal around the hour mark. Alou Diarra found a richly deserved equaliser with a header from a corner seven minutes from time that keeps Bordeaux in touch ahead of their trip to Rome. Hailing from France's wine region, the home coach Laurent Blanc spoke about a "vintage" effort from his men. A regretful Scolari saw it differently. "It is a bad goal, the first time we have conceded a goal from a corner kick. We should have won easily after we scored," he commented. Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal, who face Chelsea on Sunday, have reached the knockout stages with a bit to spare. In such wintery times, Luiz Felipe may be full of bluster, but Chelsea, top of the Premier League, are making heavy weather of it.

dkane@thenational.ae