Istanbul, Turkey Wednesday 02/4/08......The Chelsea FC appeared to be quite an invigorated team as they strode onto the pitch at Fenerbahce Sukru Saracoglu Stadium on Wednesday afternoon. Coming off of a very shakey outing against Middlesbrough FC only days earlier, Chelsea seemed to have brought their best stuff with them for the first leg of UEFA Champions League Quarter Finals, and for the first 45 minutes, that is exactly what we saw. Early in the match Chelsea was gifted with a Fenerbahce own goal when Deivid deflected a Florent Malouda cross kick into his own net. Chelsea's Michael Essien had a very notable first half strike that hit the crossbar and bounded back onto the pitch, nearly giving Chelsea a second goal. For Chelsea, their first half performance was nothing short of flawless as they assumed a 1 - nil half time advantage.
The second half would turn out to be the complete opposite for the Blues however. For the second time in as many games, the Chelsea defense went into lackluster mode. There was virtually no press applied at midfield and some of the most fundamental rules of Soccer were forgotten completely by the Chelsea defense. Fenerbahce was more than ready to capitalize on Chelsea's failures. Chelsea seemed content to hold onto it's 1 - nil lead, but with it's defensive short comings, the lead slipped away in the 64th minute when London born Kazim Kazim snuck a neat left footed kick past the Chelsea Goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini. Then at 80 minutes Fenerbahce's Deivid redeemed himself of the first half mistake he'd made by scoring the go ahead goal. That would prove to be the finale goal of the game as the score at 90 minutes was 2- 1.
Chelsea went into the match favored to win. Fenerbahce pulled off quite an upset which set the stage for heavy criticism of Chelsea Manager Avrom Grant. The critics have been using games like this one to point out just how different Chelsea has looked since the departure of coaching icon Jose Mourinho. I say it's still a bit too early to be sure. The Israeli born Grant is definitely a different type of leader but has great credentials and seems likely to keep Chelsea on course as they prepare for the second leg this coming Tuesday at Stamford Bridge.