Late Hazard miss foils Chelsea

Date published: Thursday 1st January 1970 12:00

Late Hazard miss foils Chelsea

Jose Mourinho’s men must wait to seal their qualification from the Champions League group stages after their sublime Belgian’s trademark style of calm penalty-taking was foiled.

Maribor had taken a second-half lead with the game’s moment of outstanding quality – a curling strike beyond Petr Cech’s dive and into the top corner from Agim Ibraimi – but a resolute Chelsea equalised through Nemanja Matic before missing a golden opportunity to take three points back to London.

Maribor had 36-year-old keeper Jasmin Handanovic to thank for their point as he won his personal battle with Hazard. Most notable was his penalty save – refusing to be tempted into an early commitment by the midfielder’s calculated run-up – but he earlier spread himself to deny the Belgian as he ran through on goal.
Chelsea never reached their fluid best with Mourinho drastically altering his side with two half-time substitutes.
Didier Drogba, picked ahead of the rested Diego Costa, went close twice in the first 11 minutes, first latching onto a long ball to run clear and then seeing his 25-yard strike kept out by Handanovic.
Drogba continued to rely upon his strength in attack but used it too vociferously in an exchange with Petar Stojanovic – unnecessarily fouling the defender before running through on goal.
The Slovenians threatened on the counter-attack, and after Sintayehu Sallallich fired a warning shot with a dangerous cross that stretched John Terry, Maribor almost took a shock lead.
Marcos Tavares outmuscled Cesc Fabregas before rising the crowd to their feet by charging between Terry and Nemanja Matic. Although his shot was blocked, Luke Zahovic kept the move alive and Chelsea needed young centre-back Kurt Zouma to stop the ball on the goal-line.
Mourinho maintained a steely outlook throughout the first period – at one stage clearly threatening to substitute any player who he deemed not to be running enough. Two half-time changes including the introduction of Costa plus a second-half shift to a back three underlined his disappointment with Chelsea’s first half.
But it was Maribor who struck early. A left wing cross bounced through Chelsea’s area and fell to Ibraimi who took one touch before stylishly picking out the top corner. It represented a remarkable change from these sides’ last meeting when Chelsea thrashed Maribor 6-0 at Stamford Bridge.
Lukas Zahovic, the son of esteemed Champions League finalist Zlatko, needed his father’s finishing when he missed an open goal from a few yards at 1-0, an error that should have put the game beyond Chelsea.
An equaliser seemed inevitable and arrived with 17 minutes remaining in the unglamorous manner befitting a team trying to carve out qualification in unfamiliar surroundings. John Terry flicked on a corner-kick and Matic couldn’t miss from a yard out.
Costa, the half-time substitute, was more wasteful, blasting into the crowd after Hazard gave him a sight of goal. Stationed on the left of a front three, Costa had the beating of Petar Stojanovic but first fired wide and then appealed for an optimistic penalty. His best attempt, a half-volley from the edge of the box, brought the best out of Handanovic.
Hazard grew into the game after leaving the left wing for the right but fluffed his best chance – missing a one-on-one with Handanovic after Oscar released him on goal. He then won Chelsea’s late penalty through his own mazy dribbling – turning Viler inside-out – but his trademark method of waiting for the keeper to commit backfired. Handanovic didn’t move and saved the spot-kick.
The veteran keeper, who still found time to deny another Hazard shot, won the personal duel and despite the 6-0 score-line of a fortnight ago, two unrecognisable teams ended the evening even.

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