By Trevor Haylett at Stamford Bridge
Chelsea FC showed their fighting spirit by recovering from a goal down to defeat S.S. Lazio 2-1 here on Wednesday night. A stunning drive from Frank Lampard and a smart finish from Adrian Mutu turned the tables on their visitors, previously unbeaten in Group G of the UEFA Champions League and who had led on the night through Simone Inzaghi.
Much had been made of Hernán Crespo's opportunity to remind Lazio of his goalscoring potency, only for a slight groin injury to deprive him of that chance. Eidur Gudjohnsen was included as Mutu's striking partner, with Juan Sebastián Verón, another former Lazio favourite, named in a midfield diamond that had Damien Duff as the most advanced of the quartet.
Swift passing approach
Verón and Duff were heavily involved as Chelsea employed a swift passing approach aimed at securing the early breakthrough. With Mutu full of craft and stealthy runs, Lazio faced a severe examination of their resilience.
Gudjohnsen was the first to threaten when he was found in space to the left of goal. He shot too high. Verón then played a quick free-kick into Duff's path but Lazio scrambled the danger away, as they did when Verón's shrewd pass out to Mutu offered scope for the Romanian to show his pace.
Lazio had sent over a couple of dangerous crosses but nothing that worried Carlo Cudicini unduly. A ninth-minute free-kick was in just the territory that Sinisa Mihajlovic likes to exploit, but his effort was poor and easily gathered by the home side's Italian goalkeeper.
For the first 25 minutes Chelsea seemed to have learned the lessons of three weeks ago when defensive failings allowed Besiktas JK a surprise victory. But both teams had to show patience. Duff's frustration was clear when a couple of good crossing opportunities amounted to nothing because of a shortage of blue shirts in supporting positions.
Inzaghi on target
As the first half wore on Lazio came more into things and seven minutes from the break they went in front. Massimo Oddo's crossing ability had already been signposted and when he found Dejan Stankovic at the far post danger threatened. Stankovic nodded the ball square, into the heart of the area, where from close range Inzaghi swooped to head it over the line.
Against the bar
It might have appeared harsh on the balance of play but the ability of the Italian defenders to close ranks was admirable. In injury time Lampard decided to go it alone and hit a bullet of a shot from outside the penalty area which smacked against the crossbar.
Chelsea manager Claudio Ranieri resisted the temptation to make changes at the break, though Duff was operating now almost exclusively down the left. Chelsea kept pouring forward and 13 minutes after the break they found an equaliser. Switching play to the left, Duff fed Gudjohnsen who then laid the ball across for Lampard to strike first time, a searing shot curving away from Angelo Peruzzi and into the corner of the net.
Seven minutes later and Chelsea had the lead after what proved to be an inspired substitution by Ranieri. With his first touch Jesper Grønkjær swept the ball over and, after seeing his first attempt blocked, Mutu persevered and drove in the rebound.