Chelsea v Valencia - as it happened

Didier Drogba rolled back the years to help Chelsea advance to the knockout stages as group winners

Good evening everybody. Welcome to tonight's minute-by-minute coverage of a group stage decider, which will end with one of Chelsea or Valencia earning a berth in the last 16 of the Champions League, while the others are consigned to the knockout stages of the Europa League as punishment for their ineptitude.

A win for Chelsea will see them through to the last 16 of the Champions League, while a score draw is all that Valencia require to proceed. And while assorted media outlets have stated as fact that a 0-0 draw would be enough for Chelsea to qualify, a Genk win over Bayer Leverkusen in tonight's other Group E match would render a scoreless stalemate at Stamford Bridge inadequate for the home side.

Should the Stamford Bridge scoreboard operator remain untroubled tonight, Bayer Leverkusen, Chelsea and Valencia will each have nine points, but in a comparison of the results between the three teams (their matches against Genk would be disregarded), Bayer Leverkusen will have more points and Valencia will have scored more goals than Chelsea. Confused? Don't think too hard about it, because it will make your head throb.

I'll be here with the team news and pre-match build-up shortly after 7pm. but in the meantime you can read Dominic Fifield's match preview and this interview with Valencia skipper David Albelda by Sid Lowe.

This just in: Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard will start tonight's match on the bench.

Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Luiz, Cole, Romeu, Meireles,
Ramires, Sturridge, Drogba, Mata.
Subs: Turnbull, Lampard, Torres, Mikel, Malouda, Ferreira, Kalou.

Valencia: Diego Alves, Barragan, Rami, Victor Ruiz, Jordi Alba, Feghouli, Tino Costa, Albelda, Mathieu, Jonas, Soldado.
Subs: Guaita, Topal, Aduriz, Piatti, Dealbert, Pablo, Parejo.

Referee: Gianluca Rocchi (Italy)

How Chelsea will line up: I'm speculating here, of course, but it's likely Raul Meireles will play just in front of the back four, with Ramires and Oriol Romeu a few yards ahead and to his right and left. Further up the field, Juan Mata and Daniel Sturridge will patrol the left and right flanks respectively, with Didier Drogba the lone front man.

How Valencia will line up: More speculation, but you can probably expect to see (or read about) two banks of four, with Sofiane Fehouli and Jeremy Mathieu book-ending a central midfield pairing of Tino Costa and David Albelda. Jonas will line up between the midifield four and lone frontman Roberto Soldado.

Meanwhile on Twitter: Guardian Chalkboards guru Zonal Marking (aka Michael Cox), who knows more about this kind of thing than I do, has been expounding his own theory about Frank Lampard's absence from the Chelsea starting XI.

"A key feature of the first game was how Pablo Hernandez moved into that gap behind Lampard - contributed to Lampard not playing tonight?" he mused. "Pablo isn't playing, by the way, but expect Feghouli to do the same thing. Think Sturridge/Alba battle really important too, going both ways." On Sky Sports, studio guest and pundit Ray Wilkins concurs and says that Daniel Sturridge is likely to be in for a long and busy night.

An email from Ben Monk: "As David Luiz is playing, then we don't need to discuss what will happen if it is a goalless draw," he says.

And this, from Nemanja Mitrovic: "You are wrong Barry," he declares. "Romeu is the anchorman. He played in that position in the last two games. Meireles instead of Lampard on the left, and Ramires on the right."

Some utterly useless pub trivia: Jonas' goal against Bayer Leverkusen in the fourth round of group games was timed at 10.84 seconds, but it's not the fastest in Champions League history. That particular honour goes to Roy Makaay, who took just 10.12 seconds to put Bayern Munich one up against Real Madrid on 7 March 2006. So now you know ...

Meanwhile at Stamford Bridge: Resplendent in arresting orange bibs, Chelsea's players are spread out in a circle, jogging on the spot doing their warm-up, while their skipper John Terry stands in the middle giving them a pep-talk.

Poor Sideshow Bob: "Romeu tends to be the player just in front, trying to cover for David Lui ... er, the back four," writes Brendan Large, who is of course correct. That was more of a clerical error on my part, rather than the usual kind, which can be blamed on breath-taking ignorance.

Not long now: The teams click-clack out of the tunnel and line up for the Champions League anthem, with Chelsea wearing their customary home strip of blue shirts and shorts with white socks. Valencia's players line up in white shirts with black shorts and socks.

Pre-match niceties: "Okay, good luck and good match boys," says Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi to the captains John Terry and David Albelda, after the Englishman wins the coin-toss. Handshakes ensue ...

1 min: And they're off, with Valencia kicking off and playing from left to right. Chelsea win possession and Ramires plays a long through-ball down the middle of the pitch for Didier Drogba to chase, but there's too much welly on the ball and it runs through to the feet of Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves.

2 min: Daniel Sturridge picks up the ball near the halfway line, cuts inside from the right flank and plays a low diagonal pass to Drogba on the edge of the Velencia penalty area. He plays it back to the onrushing Raul Meireles, who brings a fine save out of Alves.

GOAL! Chelsea 1-0 Valencia (Drogba 4) Chelsea go ahead! A Sturridge cross from the right flank lands at the feet of Mata at the far post. His first touch is beautiful and he pings the ball back to Drogba, who performs a delightful drag-back to take out two defenders and bring the ball on to his right foot. Despite Diego Alves getting a hand to his low diagonal drive, the ball squirms into the bottom right-hand corner.

5 min: A lapse in concentration from Daniel Sturridge, who lets Jordi Alba ghost in behind him on the inside left position. The ball heads his way and he rattles the woodwork with a fine shot from a narrow angle.

7 min: Jonas tries to play in Soldado with a high ball aimed towards the gap between John Terry and David Luiz. The Chelsea skipper bridges said gap and leaps to clear with a header.

9 min: Alba takes on Sturridge down the left wing again, but this time the Chelsea forward is more diligent in going about his work and refuses to let the nimble left-footer past him.

9 min: David Albelda tries a shot from about 20 yards. The ball looks to be heading for the top left-hand corner, but Petr Cech dives across to divert it out for a corner with a marvellous save. Didier Drogba clears the ensuing corner with a header - this is a cracking game.

12 min: "Good evening, here's the Roy Makkay goal against Real - woof!" barks Oscar Morris.

13 min: Chelsea win a free-kick halfway inside the Valencia half after Ramires is chopped down by Victor Ruiz.

15 min: The official distance of the free-kick is 37 metres from goal, but Didier Drogba has a pop anyway. His optimistic effort crashes into the two-man Valencia defensive wall.

16 min: Sturridge jinks and shimmies his way down the right touchline, then swings a cross into the Valencia penalty area, where Antonio Barragan clears with his head.

17 min: Drogba gallops down the left flank, gets in behind Barragan in the Valencia right-back position and sends in a cross which is cleared.

18 min: Another free-kick for Chelsea, this time 33 yards from the Valencia goal. Mata steps up and his effort takes a deflection off a defender and goes out for a corner.

18 min: Mata takes the corner. His inswinger is headed back to him by Valencia centre-half Victor Ruiz. Mata tries to pick out a Chelsea player, but Valencia clear.

20 min: "They're very difficult, these nights, for players," says Gary Neville, who's co-commentating for Sky Sports tonight. "They're not ones you enjoy."

GOAL! Chelsea 2-0 Valencia (Ramires 21) Heroic work from Drogba, who's been in inspired form tonight. He gallops through the middle third, before playing a through-ball for Ramires to chase. Valencia defender Victor Ruiiz should have cleared but dithered and the Brazilian muscled him off the ball before poking it beyond Alves and into the goal. What a great start for Chelsea, who've been gifted both goals.

24 min: Valencia midfielder Sofiane Feghouli pops a round in the chamber and fires from 25 yards out. His effort is on target and brings another smart save out of Petr Cech, who does well to catch and hold on to the ball.

25 min: Alba cuts inside from the left wing and sends in a cross which is put out for a corner. Tino Costa takes it, but his inswinger is headed clear.

27 min: Assorted Valencia defenders part like the Red Sea as Branislav Ivanovic goes on a marauding run from the touchline into the Valencia penalty area. Just as it looks like he might score, Jordi Alba steps in to take the ball off his toe.

29 min: Chelsea attack on the break, sprinting forward at a frantic lick. The ball's played down the right flank for Sturridge to run on to and he shoots from a narrow angle when the better option was to thread the ball between covering defenders and pick out the unmarked Raul Meireles at the far post. Diego Alves parries Sturridge's shot and the ball goes out for a corner, from which nothing comes.

31 min: "He's putting himself about and he's up for it," drools Gary Neville, after a lengthy and entirely justified eulogy in praise of Didier Drogba's performance this evening. He's been immense so far, popping up all over the place, muscling Valencia players off the ball when required, but also showing some sublime touches, not least in the build-up to his goal.

34 min: Valencia attack down Chelsea's right flank. Barragan sends in a cross from deep, but Ivanovic heads clear. Elsewhere in Group E, Genk are beating Bayer Leverkusen, which means that as things stand, Chelsea would win the group, with the German club going through in second place.

35 min: Another deft touch from Drogba, who picks out Juan Mata with a back-heel in the centre-circle as Chelsea embark on another of the counter-attacks that are serving them so well.

36 min: Judging by the bellows of laughter coming from where Paul Doyle is sitting on my right, assorted Arsenal goalkeepers are using tonight's run-out against Olympiakos to work on their Comedy Blooper showreels. The Greek side lead 2-0.

38 min: Attacking down the right wing, Barragan gets around the outside of Juan Mata and sends a cross towards the far post. Ivanovic heads the ball out for a corner, which Meireles clears. With a two-goal buffer, Chelsea are defending in numbers, making it difficult for their Spanish opponents to break them down. Valencia have had the majority of possession but have yet to convert it into numbers on the scoreboard.

41 min: Sturridge tries to play the ball in behind the Valencia defence for Ivanovic, who'd made a great run forward into space. His pass isn't quite high enough and the ball's cut out by Adil Rami.

44 min: "It's all about concentration now for Chelsea," says Gary Neville, who's been garnering lots of plaudits as a match analyst and pundit this season. "If they keep playing like this [defending in numbers] it'll be very difficult for Valencia to score two goals."

Half-time: The referee blows for the interval and Chelsea's players go in for their half-time brew two goals to the good. As things stand they'll progress to the last 16 as group winners and everybody will be wondering what all the panic and palaver was about in the build-up to tonight's match.

Half-time natter: "I like Gary Neville on commentary," writes Ken Danbury. "He is not afraid to upset anyone. Probably because he hasn't got any mates. That's a good thing."

A reader's query: "Help an old, fat ugly man and kindly tell me who that absolutely lovely girl sitting next to Roberto di Matteo, and behind AVB, on the chelsea bench is?" asks Hank Janson. "I don't know why, but somehow, i think just knowing her name will give me the will to keep on living. Surely she contributes as much to team morale as Drogba's early goal."

I suspect the woman you speak of might be Eva Carneiro, Hank. She's Chelsea's team doctor.

Second half: No changes on either side as Chelsea kick off.

46 min: Hmmm ... interesting. Didier Drogba appears to have lined up for the second half on the right wing, with Daniel Sturridge playing in the centre. I wonder why that might be.

47 mins: Ah, scrap that - according to Sky's commentary team, Sturridge and Drogba have switched back to their original positions.

48 min: David Albelda concedes a free kick right of centre a few yards outside of the Valencia penalty area for blocking a run by Sturridge.

48 min: Drogba takes the free-kick and tries to bend it around the wall and inside the right upright. He doesn't get anywhere near enough swerve on the ball and his effort fizzes well wide.

49 min: While I don't want to blow too much smoke up Gary Neville's nether regions, he's just made the very interesting point that Chelsea's players seem to be taking it in turns to take free-kicks, rather than judging each one on its merits and deciding who it suits best. He reckons Juan Mata should have taken that last one, but because it was Drogba's turn, it was he who stepped up.

52 min: Jeremy Mathieu sends a cross into the Chelsea penalty area from the left touchline, which David Luiz gets a touch on to knock it off its course to Roberto Soldado.

54 min: Valencia win a corner, which Tino Costa takes. He picks out Soldado, who flicks it on at the near post, only for Terry to head clear. Chelsea set off on another blistering counter-attack, which ends with Daniel Sturridge once again shooting from a narrow angle when he perhaps should have squared the ball instead.

55 min: Valencia substitution: left winger Jordi Alba makes way for striker Aritz Aduriz.

56 min: "Regarding the lovely girl on the Chelsea bench," writes Adam in New York. "Are you sure Hank Janson wasn't talking about Fernando Torres?"

57 min: Valencia win a free-kick deep in Chelsea territory, down near the corner flag. The delivery is excellent - a real inswinger - and Cech can only half clear. The ball breaks kindly for Feghouli, who shoots over the bar.

60 min: Just 30 minutes with add-ons left and Valencia need two goals if they're to avoid going out of the Champions League. If they could nab one now, that would tee us up for a sensational final half-hour.

60 min: Another Valencia corner, another lightning fast Chelsea counter-attack after Drogba heads clear. Ramires gallops through the centre and then pings a cross-field pass to Daniel Sturridge who's up in support. The youngster's first touch is poor and he miscontrols, allowing Valencia to clear their lines.

62 min: A Barragan cross from the right flank threatens to drop under the cross-bar, forcing Petr Cech to fist the ball over the woodwork for a corner. Tino Costa's inswinger is cleared at the near post.

63 min: Cech concedes another corner - diving to his left to turn a rasping Feghouli drive around his left upright. Good goalkeeping; nothing comes from the corner.

65 min: Chelsea substitution: John Obi Mikel on, Ramires off. Valencia substitution: Pablo Hernandez on, Sofiane Feghouli off.

66 min: Valencia try another attack, but run aground on the rock that is Chelsea's defensive anchor Oriol Romeu. He's been excellent tonight. Moments later he gets booked, harshly, for a fine tackle on Pablo Hernandez.

68 min: Now Tino Costa's name goes into the referee's notebook; apologies, but I didn't see what he did to incure the official's wrath.

70 min: Valencia try to pick the lock that is the Chelsea defence, with Victor Ruiz looking for a way through. He tries to thread the ball through a non-existent gap and the home side clear. Valencia are having plenty of possession, but seem to run out of ideas once they hit the final third of the pitch.

72 min: Didier Drogba squanders a great opportunity after powering his way towards the edge of the Valencia penalty area. He outmuscled Victor Ruiz in a chase for a ball, leaving the Valencia defender face down in the dirt. With only the goalkeeper to beat, Drogba drags his low, diagonal effort a couple of feet wide of the left upright. Great play from the big man, but he should have killed off the game after doing all the hard work.

GOAL! Chelsea 3-0 Valencia (Drogba 75) Juan Mata splits the Valencia defence with a perfectly weighted through-ball for Drogba to chase. One on one with the goalkeeper for the second time in a couple of minutes, the Ivorian makes no mistake and pokes the ball past Alves before wheeling away in celebration.

76 min: Chelsea substitution: Didier Drogba off to a much-deserved ovation, Fernando Torres on. Valencia substitution: Tino Costa off, Daniel Parejo on ... I think.

78 min: "I am sorry, Adam, but that 'Torres is a girl comment' is just pathetic," writes Travis Dudfield. "You went through the trouble of emailing the Guardian to tell a joke that wouldn't be funny on the playground, let alone the MBM. But since you have raised my ire quite sufficiently, let's just take a moment and highlight this comment. Torres is playing badly so he must be a woman, right? That's what you meant. With such a mentality so near the surface, it's no wonder women's sport still struggles to gain the recognition it deserves."

79 min: While Travis has every right to take everything very seriously indeed, I must confess that the 'Torres is a girl' email made me laugh ... out loud. Travis's email also made me laugh out loud, but for different reasons.

81 min: So stout has Chelsea's defending been that Valencia's players are reduced to trying pot-shots from distance in an attempt to take the bare look off their side of the scoreboard. Petr Cech saves two in quick succession without too much fuss.

83 min: Chelsea substitution: Juan Mata goes off after another good night's work. Florent Malouda replaces him.

84 min: "Dr Carneiro may be beautiful, but even she is not as beautiful as the footballing doctor who left us on Sunday," writes Gary Naylor, who may be right. Mercifully, Dr Carneiro is conspicuously less bearded than the footballing doctor who left us on Sunday.

87 min: Chelsea seem happy enough to just play down the clock and Valencia quite clearly know the jig is up. The camera cuts to a forlorn looking Roberto Soldado, who's had a very quiet night, despite all the talk about his star being in the ascendency. He's only had one shot on target, which was saved by Petr Cech, but otherwise John Terry and David Luiz have had him in their pockets.

89 minutes: Daniel Sturridge tries to curl the ball into the top left-hand corner from distance, but his effort wafts well wide.

90 min: "I don't think it's too disrespectful of women's sport to point out that Torres does have a bit of a girlish face," writes Patrick Reilly. "The hair doesn't help either. Altogether a handsome package, but if I had to pick one player on the Chelsea bench to mistake as a woman, he'd be it."

90+1 min: "Travis Dudfield seems very angry, but hopefully I can out his mind at rest. The 'Torres is a girl' comments have been around since long before his Chelsea nightmare and mainly relate to the shiny blond mane he sported at Liverpool and which he has reverted to this season," writes Ben Mimmack. "In my mind it's more redolent of a Lipizaner horse, but I wouldn't want to be accused of anti-equestrian bias."

Peep! Peep! Peeeeeeep!!!! Panic over - it could hardly have been easier for Chelsea in the end. They go through to the last 16 with the absolute minimum of fuss. Genk and Bayer Leverkusen are drawing in Belgium and if they finish all square, Andre Villas-Boas's side will advance as Group E winners.

Meanwhile on Guardian Sport's picture desk, Steven Bloor has been beavering away compiling this gallery of photos from tonight's game. Print them off, staple them together and flick through them really quickly and it'll seem like you're at the match. That's all from me tonight - except to say that Chelsea will go through as Group E winners ahead of Bayer Leverkusen. Thanks for your time and your emails and have a good night.

comments powered by Disqus