LONDON, September 18: Valencia put a week of turmoil behind them to beat Chelsea 1-0 at Stamford Bridge in Frank Lampard’s first Champions League game in charge of the Blues on Tuesday.
Chelsea dominated possession, but were toothless in attack after losing promising midfielder Mason Mount to an early injury and were punished 16 minutes from time when Rodrigo grabbed all three points for the Spaniards.
Lampard’s men should still have rescued a point, but Ross Barkley fired a late penalty over the bar.
Valencia had arrived in London still reeling from the unpopular sacking of coach Marcelino last week, who had led the club to two top-four finishes in La Liga and the Copa del Rey last season in his two seasons in charge.
Los Che were also thrashed 5-2 by Barcelona in Albert Celades’s first game in charge on Saturday, but bounced back with a solid if unspectacular performance that was still good enough to beat a Chelsea side that badly missed the imagination of the departed Eden Hazard.
Lampard has had a rocky start on his return to Stamford Bridge, but enjoyed his best result of his short time in charge with a 5-2 win at Wolves at the weekend.
Tammy Abraham scored a hat-trick in that match to take his tally to seven goals in his last three Premier League games and threatened to carry that form into his first Champions League appearance early on.
Abraham was denied by Jasper Cillessen as he tried to force home Cesar Azpilicueta’s dangerous near-post cross inside the first 10 minutes, but Chelsea’s early momentum was soon halted by an injury blow to the other young star of their season so far.
Francis Coquelin was lucky to escape with just a yellow card for a dangerous lunge on Mount, that forced the England international off with an ankle injury.
Without the creative quality of Mount, the hosts were reliant on moments of magic from Willian to open up an organised if unambitious Valencia.
The Brazilian just lacked the finish after chesting down Mateo Kovacic’s fine pass over the top of the Valencia defence as he blazed well over.
Former Barca ‘keeper Cillessen had been heavily criticised for his performance upon his return to the Camp Nou on Saturday, but came to his side’s rescue again in first-half stoppage time when this time a fierce volleyed effort from Willian found the target.
Despite Chelsea’s obvious defensive weaknesses in conceding 11 times in their opening five Premier League games of the season, Valencia were happy to contain and counter-attack.
Barcelona hold Borussia Dortmund to goalless draw
Marc-Andre ter Stegen’s stellar performance secured Barcelona one point against Borussia Dortmund in the first game of the Champions League group stage.
On Tuesday, the German international back-up goalkeeper denied Marco Reus a penalty and defused a number of chances, helping Barcelona to take one point back home, reports Xinhua news agency.
Dortmund took the reins on home soil from the kick-off but as the match progressed they handed over control to the visitors.
Defender Mats Hummels had to be on guard to deny Barcelona twice as he blocked a shot from Antoine Griezmann before intercepting a dangerous cross into the goal area by a header.
It were the hosts who created the best chance of the first half after Thorgan Hazard set up for Reus. Still, the hosts were unable to overcome ter Stegen from very close range with 25 minutes into the game.
Another good chance fell to the “BVB” in the closing period of the first half but Jadon Sancho pulled over the bar from the edge of the box following build-up work from Reus. (AFP)
Napoli beat holders Liverpool in Champions League opener
NAPLES (Italy), September 18: Dries Mertens and Fernando Llorente scored late goals as Napoli defeated holders Liverpool 2-0 in Tuesday’s opening round of Champions League group stage matches.
Mertens converted a penalty on 82 minutes and Llorente added a second in stoppage time as Napoli gained a measure of revenge for last season’s 1-0 loss at Anfield that denied the Italians a spot in the knockout rounds.
Jurgen Klopp’s side are the first reigning European champions to lose their opening game of the following campaign since AC Milan in 1994.
Both Liverpool, who sit top of the Premier League after five straight wins, and Napoli remain favourites to progress from Group E despite Salzburg’s thrilling 6-2 win over Genk.
Llorente joined Napoli this season after playing his last game for former club Tottenham in the Champions League final defeat by Liverpool in Madrid in June.
He came on as a substitute and pounced on a rare Virgil van Dijk blunder after Mertens had opened the scoring from the spot to pandemonium among the crowd at the Stadio San Paolo. (AFP)