Juve nudge Chelsea and Di Matteo to brink of exit


BELEAGUERED Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo tempted fate last night by admitting he is to blame for a loss that leaves the Champions League holders on the brink of crashing out at the first hurdle.

Juventus goals from Fabio Quagliarella, Arturo Vidal and Sebastian Giovinco piled further pressure on Di Matteo, who is in danger of being sacked just six months after lifting the European Cup.

Chelsea will become the first winners to be eliminated at the group stage in the competition’s history unless they beat Nordsjaelland and Juve lose to Shakhtar Donetsk in the final round of matches.

“I’m responsible for the result. I’m responsible for the performance. It’s a negative evening for us. If anyone has to take the blame, it’s me,” said Di Matteo. “I selected a team I was convinced was the right team to win against Juventus, or get at least a draw, so the blame belongs to me. At the moment, I think, with the team we are all in it together. At the moment I am here and I think I will be for the future.”

Defeat on Sunday in the Premier League against Manchester City would cap a disastrous five weeks in charge for the Italian, in which he has lost four times. Former Barcelona boss Pep Guardiola is believed to be owner Roman Abramovich’s long-term target, while ex-Liverpool coach Rafa Benitez has been linked with a short-term role.

Di Matteo took a huge tactical gamble, dropping misfiring £50m striker Fernando Torres and deploying attacking midfielder Eden Hazard as a centre forward in a cautious formation.

Hazard forced a point-blank save from Gianluigi Buffon in the opening skirmishes but most of the action was at the other end, where Petr Cech saved from Stephan Lichtsteiner, Claudio Marchisio and Quagliarella.

Juventus led on 38 minutes when Quagliarella nimbly adjusted his feet to divert Andrea Pirlo’s drive past a wrong-footed Cech, and only Ashley Cole’s goal-line clearance prevented a second in a breathless spell before half-time. The Chelsea goalkeeper had to stop another Pirlo drive and smother Quagliarella’s attempt to round him before Vidal slotted the second, via a deflection off Ramires, from Kwadwo Asamoah’s pull-back.

Di Matteo threw on Victor Moses and Torres but substitute Giovinco rubbed salt into the wound in stoppage time when he ran clear and poked past the on-rushing Cech, who had hared 25 yards off his line.