A late Roberto Soldado penalty denied Chelsea FC their third successive single-goal win at the Estadi de Mestalla after a fine Frank Lampard strike looked likely to leave Valencia CF with nothing to show for a spirited defensive performance.
The home side were thankful for a superlative display from goalkeeper Diego Alves, who made a series of brilliant saves to keep an occasionally rampant visiting side at bay, before he was finally beaten by Lampard's assured finish early in the second half. Alves continued to impress, however, laying the platform for Unai Emery's side to mount a late rescue operation as Soldado held his nerve from the penalty spot three minutes from time to earn a second draw in as many Group E games.
Chelsea had started as if they meant to win it inside ten minutes. David Albelda passed straight to Fernando Torres, who closed in on goal only to be denied at the last by Adil Rami. The escape went unheeded and moments later Florent Malouda robbed Éver Banega, Rami nearly clearing into his own net. Alves was then called into action for the first time in the 13th minute, beating out Lampard's fierce free-kick.
Gradually the home side worked their way into the game. Pablo Hernández's trickery and close technical skills, plus clever overlapping from Jordi Alba, were significant factors in Valencia gaining possession, although they remained less dangerous than their opponents in the final third. Nevertheless, the half ended with the cleanest strike on goal from open play when Pablo fired into the arms of Petr Čech.
The game came spectacularly to life in the early stages of the second half; between the 51st minute, when Alves produced a jaw-dropping full-length save from Torres' header, to the 56th when Lampard opened the scoring, there could have been five goals.
From that Alves save Mathieu burst upfield, Pablo cut out the entire Chelsea defence with a deep cross yet Soldado mistimed his jump with the goal beckoning. Within seconds Ramires was clean through only for his countryman Alves to win the one-on-one duel. Then in close succession the Brazilian goalkeeper again defied Torres, who spun and shot, before sparing Ruiz's blushes from the defender's inadvertent deflection.
Malouda and Lampard combined to end the breathless period in the 56th minute, the Frenchman picking out Chelsea's No8 to fire inside the near post. Both keepers made further fine stops, Čech denying Jonas and Nicolas Anelka frustrated by Alves, and it was the latter whose save proved more crucial as Salomon Kalou was penalised in the 87th minute and Solado sent Čech the wrong way from the spot.