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Oscar's star turn lifts Chelsea in draw
By: timbersfan , 12:22 AM GMT on September 21, 2012
After a allowing a two-goal lead to slip against the main challengers in your Champions League group, it's natural to feel rather deflated. The tendency is to look at team deficiencies and point the finger at those culpable for a precious two points dropped against Juventus, but there are plenty of positives to take from the 2-2 draw.
The most obvious of those was the performance of Oscar. The Brazilian showcased his exceptional ability on his full Blues debut, with his two goals just part of the story. His selection in the starting eleven was a gamble from Roberto Di Matteo, but the youngster paid his manager back with an eye-catching contribution before his withdrawal in the second half.
In truth, he struggled to make much of an impact until his deflected shot opened the scoring on the half-hour mark, despite showing plenty of purpose in the number 10 role. The strike, though, filled the youngster with confidence and his second goal a couple of minutes later was a thing of beauty, leaving everyone in Stamford Bridge wide-eyed and open-mouthed. His tricks and flicks were all measured and to the benefit to the team, every backheel purposeful rather than indulgent. Given room to operate, he began to dictate Chelsea's forward momentum and became the central figure in the home side's display.
There were positive contributions throughout; John Obi Mikel was particularly effective in disrupting Juventus' rhythm, stepping into challenges and winning the ball back in crucial areas. It's just a pity that his distribution was at its usual poor standard. Despite his vital interventions, his lack of care on the ball led to the equaliser, the crowd pouring derision on one of their favourite targets. In his defence, the whole team struggled to keep hold of the ball in the last 25 minutes and the pressure had been building as Chelsea ceded possession cheaply again and again. Di Matteo's system became narrower with each passing minute, leaving few options when the ball was won back, and it seem more than a coincidence that the Blues' fluency dipped once Oscar had exited the stage.
Nevertheless, the game could have been won had the referee pointed to the spot following Andrea Barzagli's challenge on Eden Hazard. From my vantage point in the Matthew Harding stand it appeared to be a clear penalty but with the fifth official deciding not to get involved, all appeals were waved away. Yet there was still another chance to wrap up the three points; had Juan Mata’s shot found the inside of the post after some scintillating interplay with Hazard, then Oscar would have competition for goal of the game.
Injustice and near misses aside, it's hard to escape the feeling that on the balance of play, 2-2 was a fair result. Prior to Chelsea taking the lead, Mirko Vucinic and Claudio Marchisio both spurned excellent chances and the ease with which they got behind the defence was a portentous warning of Fabio Quagliarella's match-saving strike.
Opening the campaign with a point is far from being a disaster especially when the performance is placed alongside the last two outings against Atletico Madrid and QPR. Chelsea were brittle in the first game and insipid in the second but while they ultimately ran out of steam against Juventus, there was a lot to cheer about.
And in Oscar, Chelsea have a star in the making.