Soldado conversion holds Chelsea to draw
Roberto Soldado scored a late penalty to rescue a 1-1 draw for Valencia against Chelsea in Group E of the Champions League on Wednesday.
Soldado sent goalkeeper Petr Cech the wrong way from the spot in the 87th minute after Chelsea substitute Salomon Kalou was adjudged to have handled a cross in the box.
Frank Lampard had given Chelsea the lead with a first-time shot into the bottom corner from Florent Malouda's cutback in the 56th to cap an intense spell of pressure on Valencia's goal following halftime.
''The ball to me was slow and I wondered whether to have a touch but I chose to hit it first time and luckily it went in the net,'' Lampard said.
Chelsea had opportunities to take the lead before Lampard's strike, but Valencia goalkeeper Diego Alves produced breathtaking saves to block Ramires' shot and two efforts from Fernando Torres, before also foiling Nicolas Anelka in the 90th minute.
''It was a pity because I think we looked good to get three points. It was a very good performance from the team,'' Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas said. ''Before the game if we were offered a 1-1 draw with Valencia maybe we would have been happy. But it leaves us with a feeling we don't like.''
The draw moved Chelsea to four points from two games in Group E, while Valencia has two points after an opening draw with Belgian club Genk.
Bayer Leverkusen had a 2-0 home win against Genk in the group's other match and trails leader Chelsea by a point.
Chelsea hosts Genk in the next round of group matches on Oct. 19, while Valencia travels to Bayer Leverkusen.
Chelsea had won on both previous visits to the Mestalla Stadium and took the initiative in the opening exchanges.
Torres almost broke through in the third minute but took a heavy touch to allow Adil Rami to block his route to goal.
Torres came into the match after scoring two goals in his last two Premier League matches but his hopes of extending the run were frustrated by two brilliant saves from Valencia's Brazilian goalkeeper Alves just after half time.
Alves produced a one-handed save low to his left after Torres met Jose Bosingwa's cross in the 51st and deflected a snap volley from the Spanish striker round the post from point-blank range in the 54th.
In between, Alves stood tall to block Ramires' effort as the Brazilian midfielder broke clear.
Alves could do nothing to stop Chelsea finally taking the lead when Lampard marked his return to the starting lineup with a clean finish after Malouda's run down the right.
''I wanted to play, that's a given but you have to respect the manager's decision,'' said Lampard, who was on the bench for Chelsea's last Premier League match against Swansea. ''I've had knocks in my career before and it just makes you work harder to come back.''
Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas had seemed frustrated by questions about Lampard's future in the run-up to the match and stonewalled further questions about the England midfielder's role.
''He played well - with the rest of the team,'' Villas-Boas said. ''He was playing well before. Nothing to say really.''
Valencia stepped up the pressure in search of an equalizer, but top scorer Soldado took a heavy first touch to allow Petr Cech to gather on the hour mark and the Chelsea goalkeeper tipped substitute Pablo Piatti's effort over the bar soon after.
Chelsea looked to be heading for a second straight win, but Kalou handled the ball while attempting to defend a right-wing corner and Soldado stroked home the penalty.
Anelka, who replaced Torres in the 72nd minute, had a last chance to snatch victory for Chelsea, but Alves was again his side's savior with another close-range stop.