And they say that it never rains, just pours. And amongst the torrential downpours yesterday in Genk stood a young man who was feeling the heat in the Belgian cold. That man, Andre Villas-Boas, had to witness another case of so-near-yet-so-far for his Chelsea troopers. The “castle” may not be down, but it looks like it’s been damaged severely. Another cleanless sheet to a Championship-worthy Genk side at best, whose goal was their first goal in their entire Champions League campaign to date. Another missed penalty, and another poor performance, but two weeks on, and with two league defeats, a scrappy extra-time win and a racism allegation for the captain to deal with, the tide has been turning. How much longer it will stay this way will remain to be seen. How much longer AVB will ride the storm with them is also another matter.
With matches coming thick and fast for Chelsea, AVB could afford to leave out key players: out were John Terry, Frank Lampard and Juan Mata, and in were the likes of Oriol Romeu, Raul Meireles and Florent Malouda. Or so he thought. The match started with Genk doing well, making searching runs and passes to give Chelsea an early indication of things to come. Ramires quickly nullified any Genk threat, making meaningful runs himself, and scoring the first goal: great work from himself resulted in a one-two played with Torres, and the energetic Brazilian tucked it under the keeper from close range.
Chelsea continued to dominate, and it could have been a case of deja vu for Genk, had David Luiz converted the penalty. Malouda’s cross into the box was almost pushed to the ground by Buffel’s arm: penalty Chelsea. With Anelka missing one last week, it was time for David Luiz to show his composure, but he shot too tamely at the keeper, who celebrated like he had just won the match. Questions will be asked why Fernando Torres did not take it – only AVB knows why. His former Liverpool team-mate Raul Meireles struck the crossbar moments before the penalty.
Chelsea target Kevin De Bruyne was making surging runs into the Chelsea half in the second half, but a great chance to make a name for himself went when he scuffed a shot in the 50th minute. But that did not matter much. Moments later, Jelle Vossen scored Genk’s first Champions League goal, much to the delight of the home fans. Camus ran down the left and passed to Vossen, who sumptuously glided it past Petr Cech.
On came Daniel Sturridge and Frank Lampard, off went the hard-working Brazilian Ramires and by contrast, the anonymous Nicolas Anelka. The two substitutes combined for a great scoring opportunity for the latter, only for Lampard tame touch to not be enough to head goalwards. Daniel Sturridge had rode down the right flank, and you would expect a man of Frank Lampard’s ability to be able to poke it delicately into the net from only 3 yards.
That chance to win was great, the chance from Malouda was equally as good. The Frenchman did just about everything right, lifting the ball over defenders, but his tame chip towards goal was cleared off the line by a Genk defender, in comical fashion, onto his team-mate, and that ricochet managed to just creep out for a corner.
The match ended. AVB and Chelsea fail to win. The inquest continues. The worries mount. The pressure increasing. The patience of Roman Abramovich? Well, that may be determined sooner rather than later.