Chelsea drew 1-1 away at Slovenian side Maribor on Wednesday in the UEFA Champions League, as the Blues came up against an inspired Jasmin Handanovic in goal and missed several glorious chances.
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Agim Ibraimi scored a wonderful opener to give Maribor the lead but Nemanja Matic’s equalized for Chelsea. The Blues were then handed a life-line late on but Eden Hazard, who is usually so reliable from the spot and had a wonderful game on Wednesday, saw his effort saved by Handanovic to send a raucous crowd wild in Slovenia.
Chelsea are still odds-on to go through from Group E and are top on eight points, but all four teams are still in with a shout of advancing after Maribor’s magnificent performance. Jose Mourinho will not be a happy man as Chelsea put in a less than convincing display.
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Chelsea started brightly in Slovenia and Cesc Fabregas’ lofted cross towards Kurt Zouma saw the young French defender head the ball into the side-netting when he should have hit the target. Great chance squandered.
Soon after Didier Drogba raced through but saw his effort saved well as the Blues came flying out of the traps and Maribor had no answer to the side who routed them 6-0 at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago. However Maribor launched a couple of lively counter-attacks which caused Chelsea problems, then Andre Schurrle somehow missed from close-range at the other end after good build up play be Eden Hazard and Willian. The linesman’s flag went up to save Schurrle’s blushes, as the Blues continued to press for the opener with Schurrle, Drogba and Hazard all going close.
At the interval Diego Costa and Oscar replaced Willian and Schurrle as Mourinho aimed to put away the hosts, but Maribor went ahead with a stunning strike in the 50th minute. Ibraimi picked up a loose ball on the edge of the box and wasn’t pressured high enough by Filipe Luis, as the Maribor winger settled himself before curling home a beauty past Petr Cech into the top corner. 1-0 Maribor.
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Costa smashed over the bar for Chelsea as the home fans cranked up the noise in the Ljudski Vrt as the hosts sensed a famous win was on the cards. Maribor then missed a glorious chance as a cross from the left deflected into the path of Zahovic but Slovenian soccer’s top scorer somehow side-footed his effort over the bar as Chelsea were left off the hook.
The Blues made the most of that in the 72nd minute as John Terry’s header from Fabregas’ corner was tapped in at the back post by Matic to make it 1-1. Late on Hazard and Costa were denied after superb saves from Handanovic but the Slovenian minnows then looked to have shot themselves in the foot as Mitja Viler hauled down Hazard to give away a penalty.
However the hugely impressive Handanovic saved Hazard’s tame penalty, as the Slovenian minnows recorded a famous draw on home soil.
Maribor: Handanovic, Rajcevic, Viler, Arghus, Filipovic, Sallalich (NDiaye, 90′), Ibraimi (Bohar, 90′), Stojanovic, Mertelj, Tavares, Zahovic (Mendy, 73′)
Goal: Ibraimi (50′)
Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Zouma, Terry, Filipe Luis (Ramirez, 56′); Matic, Fabregas; Schurrle (Costa, 45′), Willian (Oscar, 45′), Hazard; Drogba
Goal: Maic (73′)