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Fiji Time: 12:38 PM on Friday 25 July

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Chelsea's hopes hang by a thread

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Thursday, November 22, 2012

TURIN, Italy - Chelsea's hopes of successfully defending their Champions League title were left hanging by a thread after they went down 3-0 to Juventus on Tuesday.

Chelsea went into the clash one point ahead of the Bianconeri in Group E but were on the back foot throughout and found no answer to goals in either half from Fabio Quagliarella and Arturo Vidal.

The champions' hopes of any kind of fightback were dashed when second-half substitute Sebastian Giovinco beat the onrushing Petr Cech in the first minute of injury time to secure a comfortable win.

Juventus started positively and should have had several goals during a dominant first-half although Chelsea also wasted two solid chances.

Early on Cech had to rush to keep out Stephan Lichsteiner's shot at the back post from Claudio Marchisio's short cross.

Juventus then survived a massive scare after Oscar was allowed to run up the left wing, cut inside defender Andrea Barzagli and into the middle to set up Eden Hazard at the far post only for the Belgian to be denied by 'keeper Gianluigi Buffon.

That foray illustrated the danger posed by Chelsea on the counter-attack, but it failed to halt Juventus's search for a first-half opener.

While midfielder Andrea Pirlo was keeping things under control at the back of midfield and regularly finding Claudio Marchisio and Vidal with inch-perfect passes, all too often Juve's offensives flickered out.

At the other end, Ashley Cole found Oscar on the edge of the area but after a perfect square ball to Ramires the shot from 20 metres went well wide of Buffon's goal.

A Ramires charge up the middle then drew the Juve defence and when he laid the ball off for Hazard the Belgian was unlucky to see his shot bounce off Andrea Barzagli before Buffon collected to stem the panic.

When Juventus scored, it was in textbook fashion but came with a dose of good luck, Pirlo hitting a speculative dipping shot that Quagliarella managed to deflect from 15 metres out into the Chelsea net.

Bayern Munich needed a late Thomas Mueller goal to come from behind and seal a 1-1 draw at ten-man Valencia a result which put both teams in the Champions League's knock-out phase.

After Lille's 2-0 win at BATE Borisov in Belarus earlier, both teams are now guaranteed passage into the knock-out phase and are level on 10 points at the top of Group F after the draw at Estadi de Mestalla.

With BATE third in the group on six points, neither team can now be denied a place in the last 16.

Lionel Messi has continued his prodigious goal-scoring form with a brace as Barcelona qualified for the last 16 of the Champions League with a 3-0 win over Spartak Moscow who have been eliminated.

Messi, who was top scorer in the competition for a record fourth time last season, now has five goals from five games and he has 80 for the calendar year as he pursues Gerd Muller's 85 playing for Bayern Munich and Germany in 1972.


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