Another game, another defensive mistake and another goal conceded, and this time that goal made all the difference as València snatched a draw right at the end at Estadio Mestalla.
Frank Lampard had given the Blues the lead just before the hour mark, but a handball by his substitute, Salomon Kalou, gave the hosts a chance to equalise from twelve yards out from which Roberto Soldado coolly finished.
After being red carded at the weekend which resulted in a three game ban, Fernando Torres started the game as expected, so the fit again Didier Drogba had to be contend with a place on the bench along with the in-form, Nicolas Anelka, as Florent Malouda was given the opportunity to start up front.
València had the impressive Roberto Soldado up front alongside Pablo Hernández, while the on-loan Real Madrid man, Sergio Canales, was given a free role.
The hosts made a really shaky start at the back and gave an early chance to Fernando Torres from a misplaced pass, but the Spaniard had a heavy touch, and thus gave the defender a chance to get back amid some muted penalty appeals.
The generosity continued as Florent Malouda was let free as he found the crowded Ramires. And then Ramires had an even better opportunity to open the scoring, but was hauled down, with him on one of his lung-bursting runs. The resulting free-kick taken by Frank Lampard tested the nervous looking Diego Alves, but scoreline remained intact.
Ramires was in the thick of things, and so it was worrying sight for Chelsea fans when he took a bad knock on his shin from Miguel and required lengthy treatment, but fortunately he was able to get back. In the meantime, València looked to take advantage of Chelsea being down to ten men and created their best chance with Pablo Hernández hitting his first time shot into the side-netting.
Fernando Torres and Juan Mata combined well throughout the first half, but lacked that final touch which would open up the defence as the game died down and started to resemble more of a chess match with both sides cancelling each other out.
Despite looking innocuous at best, València had loads of possession and could have made the Blues pay for the earlier missed chances, but Hernández’s volley on the turn was hit straight at the keeper and the half finished goalless and devoid of any good attacking football.
The start to the second half couldn’t have been more different as both teams played at a frantic pace. Chelsea were first to take advantage of this spell when a brilliant cross in from the right found Fernando Torres as the Spaniard rose above the defender to put in a powerful downward header, but Diego Alves produced a world class one-handed save to keep it out.
València then had the chance of their own, but the slightest of touches of John Terry’s head was enough to put Soldado off as he headed it just wide from close range under no pressure.
The game was now fully stretched and it only looked a matter of time before the deadlock would be broken, and for the all world it looked like it was going to be broken by Fernando Torres when Frank Lampard found him with delicate chip, and just like on the weekend, Torres’s first touch and shot were brilliant, but was equally matched by Diego Alves in this case, to deny him a third consecutive goal in as many games.
The Brazilian keeper epitomised the skills of València manager Unai Emery, who continues to build teams after teams, despite losing his best players, as he wasn’t fazed and lived up to the challenge after the initial nerves were gone, and then went on to save an own goal from point blank range after taming down Torres.
His one man resistance was soon to be broken though when Frank Lampard rifled in a precise first time shot from the edge of the box after some neat build up play by Florent Malouda on the right side.
It was a welcome relief for Lampard, whose future had been under immense scrutiny over the past week or so, and after the game he said; “I love playing for this club. I am very proud of playing here. I’ve had knocks before in my career – it makes me work harder to come back.”
The goal was expected to be the catalyst for further dominance by the Blues, but it wasn’t to be, and on the contrary gave València the incentive needed to go out and attack.
The game then settled into a pattern of us defending back and València testing us.
An over the top ball found the Roberto Soldado and he was able to beat Petr Cech, but in the process was forced out wide and couldn’t find any of his teammates with the cut back.
Pablo Piatti, Sofiane Feghouli and Rami all tried their luck from distance but to no avail and at this point Chelsea were hanging on, but were constantly getting found out by over the top balls looking for diagonal run of València players.
Jonas then went one step ahead and forced Čech into a great diving save. The resulting corner would prove to be decisive as Salomon Kalou carelessly gave away a penalty for handball from which Soldado didn’t miss with only four minutes of normal time remaining.
Chelsea had one final chance at the other end, but Diego Alves was once again the hero for the hosts as he kept out Nicolas Anelka from close range.
Despite being a relatively clean game, except for some playacting by Éver Bangea and the disgusting green laser following Fernando Torres around, the game ended in a chaos after the Italian referee, Nicola Rizzoli, blew for full-time whit Chelsea ready to take a free kick in Valencia’s half.
The referee then booked Juan Mata and Ashley Cole in the aftermath as the players needed to be escorted out to avoid any further trouble.
València gave a good account of themselves with Sergio Canales in particular putting in a very impressive performance.
André Villas-Boas was left a little disappointed with the late equaliser, but praised the performance on the pitch, he said; ‘We came out for the second half stronger and we had very good opportunities to score a goal before we did, but towards the end Valencia gained the momentum which they should because they were desperate for a point.
‘We came out for the second half stronger and we had very good opportunities to score a goal before we did, but towards the end Valencia gained the momentum which they should because they were desperate for a point.’
Chelsea: Cech; Bosingwa, D Luiz, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires (Meireles 65), Mikel, Lampard (Kalou 82); Mata, Torres (Anelka 72), Malouda
Scorer – Lampard 56