Real Betis Balompié ended Chelsea FC's unbeaten UEFA Champions League record and revived their own hopes of progressing from Group G with a goal from substitute Dani midway through the first half of a hard-fought match in Seville.
Betis lost 4-0 at Stamford Bridge in the reverse fixture two weeks ago but there was never any likelihood of a repeat as Betis produced a gritty performance for their second win in four UEFA Champions League games. The result left the home team on six points, one less than Chelsea who are now three behind leaders Liverpool FC.
Betis coach Llorenç Serra Ferrer welcomed back Melli and Joaquín Sánchez from domestic suspensions while Capi was preferred to Xisco Muñoz alongside Ricardo Oliveira in attack. Chelsea manager José Mourinho brought in Paulo Ferreira and Eidur Gudjohnsen in preference to Asier Del Horno and Didier Drogba, but it was the hosts who started more confidently with Joaquín and Edu particularly prominent. The former created Betis's first chance, tricking Claude Makelele with a neat step-over before advancing and playing in Arzu García, but he ran out of space.
However, that early momentum was threatened by a double injury blow after 20 minutes. First Nano was stretchered off with an apparent hamstring strain and replaced by Paolo Castellini, then Ricardo Oliveira followed him down the tunnel after falling awkwardly following a tackle by Ricardo Carvalho. The striker, who had hit Betis's winner at RSC Anderlecht on Matchday 2, was substituted by Dani and the shaven-headed forward made an immediate impact by scoring within three minutes of his introduction.
Capi played in a low cross from the left and Edu stepped over the ball, allowing it to arrive at the feet of Dani. He appeared to have wasted his opportunity by lingering too long, but managed to hold off William Gallas and slot past Petr Čech to end the only perfect defensive record in this season's UEFA Champions League.
The English champions inevitably responded with determination. Joe Cole found himself free in the area after an excellent pass by Gudjohnsen but shot too close to Pedro Contreras. Then Gudjohnsen was put clear, but blazed over under pressure from Juanito Gutiérrez. Yet Betis almost doubled their lead ahead of the interval and again it was Dani who caused the danger. Čech saved from Edu and the ball rebounded to the substitute who sent his half-volley wide.
Mourinho reacted to the half-time deficit by bringing on Shaun Wright-Phillips and Drogba for Cole and Gudjohnsen. The Ivorian international added strength to the visitors' attack, but they were still struggling against an inspired Betis. After 65 minutes Damien Duff came on for Arjen Robben to make his first appearance in three weeks, and the Republic of Ireland winger almost inspired an equaliser.
No way through
He surged down the left and sent in a wicked cross that evaded Drogba. Wright-Phillips was on hand to send it back in from the right and tee up Michael Essien, who shot as he fell and watched his effort hit the left-hand post, roll agonisingly across the goalline and strike the other upright before rebounding into the arms of the grateful Contreras. Chelsea pressed forward relentlessly in the last ten minutes but could find no way past a resolute home defence and therefore drop to second place in the group.