LEVERKUSEN, GERMANY - NOVEMBER 23: Eren Derdiyok (2nd R) of Leverkusen celebrates with his team mates after scoring his team's first goal during the UEFA Champions League group E match between Bayer 04 Leverkusen and FC Chelsea at BayArena on November 23, 2011 in Leverkusen, Germany. (Photo by Joern Pollex/Bongarts/Getty Images)
Sometimes I can take Chelsea losses in my stride. If we play well, I'm not too bothered, even if the match is important. What matters is the performance. This is not one of those times. I'm quite literally shaking with rage as I'm typing out this match report, because Chelsea have just blown a 1-0 second half lead to lose to Bayer Leverkusen.
I didn't think that I'd be angry after the first half, where Chelsea played solid, sensible football and stopped Leverkusen from doing anything except on set plays. Yes, it was slow, boring football, but there was chances in it for the Blues and the defending was out of this world compared to how it's been lately. That was mostly due to Andre Villas-Boas opting to field a 4-2-31, using Ramires and Raul Meireles in the double pivot, and played mostly on the counterattack, using Daniel Sturridge to great effect out on the right.
David Luiz was excellent. John Terry was excellent. Even Jose Bosingwa was excellent at right back. The midfield defended very well, tracking back in a way we haven't seen all season. Sure, we weren't creating very much, but it's not like Chelsea didn't have more and better chances to score than a pretty good Leverkusen side. All was well.
All got even better shortly into the second half. Sturridge looped a neat pass into Didier Drogba, who'd been frankly terrible up until that point, but the big man shook off both Omar Toprak and Manuel Freidrich to send an excellent low shot past Bernd Leno and making it 1-0. At this point, Chelsea should have maintained discipline and continued to look to hit Leverkusen on the counterattack.
At this point, everything got screwed up.
I don't know who to blame, but the one thing you don't do if you have any sense at all is open up your defence against a team that needs to score against you. Chelsea were defending superbly with that they had on the pitch, which makes it all the more remarkable that Ramires stopped staying deep and started charging all around the pitch, getting drawn out to the ball and allowing the hosts to completely bypass him.
Chances started coming in. Petr Cech was called into action several times. David Luiz went off injured. Juan Mata was replaced by Florent Malouda. More chances for Leverkusen followed. The breakthrough was inevitable, and it came after some bizarre defending - Alex fell for a dummy and Branislav Ivanovic completely failed to track Sidney Sam on the right. A simple cross was headed home by Eren Derdiyok, and it was level.
Leverkusen looekd more likely to score the second - the midfield pivot had lost all sense of discipline by this point and Andre Schurrle was crushing ersatz left back Jose Bosingwa, but it wasn't until the last minute of the game when they struck once more, when Freidrich, who should have conceded a penalty at 1-1 for a foul against Didier Drogba met a corner with a bullet header past Petr Cech.
I don't understand what happened in the second half. I doubt I ever will. The loss hurts, as does the fact that Valencia at home is now essentially a cup final (unless we draw 0-0, we have to beat them). But the way the match played out was the salt in the wound. Things were going perfectly, and then it completely fell apart for no reason at all.