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Frustrated Chelsea make their point

Chelsea qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League for the first time in four years last night but the celebrations belonged to the visitors.

Their manager Jiri Kotrba declared Chelsea “one of the contenders” to win this competition yet there was scant evidence of them deserving such praise here. The London side have this season been best canada goose jacket for skiing accepted into the ranks of European football’s aristocrats and Sparta were grateful to be on the same pitch.

It is five matches since Chelsea last conceded a goal but their manager Claudio Ranieri had to be content with fewer than half a dozen scoring opportunities, all of which fizzled out.

“It is now important to get a point against Besiktas and then we can win the group,” said Ranieri, who is relieved he does not have to take his side to Istanbul for that match, after Uefa’s decision to move the fixture to a neutral venue because of the terrorist threat.

Memories of player withdrawals from the trip to Hapoel Tel Aviv in 2001 might have caused the Italian to fear a revolt of his precious stars but he is instead setting his sights on a seeding for the second phase. “It is important to be group winner because you can take a side who finished second in another group. But it is important also for our philosophy to win every match.”

The opportunity to be spoken of in the same breath as Real Madrid, among the knockout phase’s seeded sides, would have been accepted with a win here. But an uncharacteristically faltering performance from the start undermined Chelsea’s chances and caused Ranieri to become increasingly animated and agitated on the touchline.

He was frustrated at his team’s tendency to overcomplicate their moves, slowing best price canada goose jacket outlet usa online store the progress to goal. Though some dangerous positions were engineered, it was not until Frank Lampard’s dipping drive fizzed over the bar on 20 minutes that Sparta’s defence had reason to gasp.

Hernn Crespo headed against the bar, with Adrian Mutu stabbing the rebound back to the Argentinian from under the goalkeeper’s body. Crespo had the ball in the net but was called back for offside. “I can’t understand why the linesman said no goal when we canada goose coat 1000 calorie diets scored a goal,” said Ranieri.

Lampard came close again from 20 yards out, as did Joe Cole, but Libor Sionko might have punished the home side’s lack of penetration when he headed Rastislav Michalik’s cross narrowly wide.

At half-time the news filtered through, perhaps as far as the away dressing room, that Besiktas were leading Lazio in Rome. Had the scores stayed the same in both matches – the Romans eventually equalised – Sparta would have been eliminated from the competition; but they were not prepared to risk a defeat.

The visitors consistently left eight bodies behind the ball and Kotrba made no apologies. “We are still in with a chance of qualification, so we didn’t want to lose here.”

But seconds after can you wash a canada goose parka the restart, Cole found Mutu with an exquisite through-ball. Mutu’s shot squirted off to Damien Duff six yards out and the Irishman squared to Crespo, who tried to backheel the ball into the net when a simple shot would have sufficed.

But Chelsea’s frilly, flawed finishing was not the only adornment. buy canada goose jacket nyc Claude Makelele made a rare foray into the Sparta half and almost returned to his own the scorer of an even rarer goal. His 30-yard shot turned a corner in the canada goose coat – victoria air but flew a foot wide.

Cole had played well in his first Champions League group-stage start in the absence of the injured Juan Sebastin Vern but, though his buy canada goose jacket toronto contribution won his manager’s praise, it could not keep him on the pitch. Ranieri tried to inject fresh impetus into his side by replacing Crespo with Eidur Gudjohnsen and Cole with Geremi.

The influence of the Cameroon international Geremi was also great. He swung in a free-kick from the left which John Terry’s head sent flashing across the face of goal. William Gallas canada goose coat 1000 calorie meal plans bent double to canada goose coat – hybridge lite make contact with the ball but his glancing touch could direct it only on to the post.

But the true impotence of Chelsea last night came when Mutu escaped Sparta’s entire rearguard, racing clear to go one-on-one with the keeper Jaromir Blazek before sending his low shot wide. Sparta could not punish the profligacy but Manchester United may be less forgiving on Sunday.

Chelsea (4-1-3-2): Cudicini; Melchiot, Gallas, Terry, Bridge; Makelele; Cole (Geremi, 73), Lampard, Duff; Crespo (Gudjohnsen, 73), Mutu.

Sparta Prague (4-4-1-1): are there any canada goose outlet stores Blazek; Pergl, Homola, Hubschman, Labant; Poborsky, Kovac, Krmas, Michalik (Gluscevic best canada goose outlet, 73); Zelenka (Flachbart, 87); Sionko (Jezek, 90).

Referee: C B Larsen (Denmark).

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