APOEL FC ended Chelsea FC's run of ten matches without conceding at Stamford Bridge and then repeated the trick with three minutes remaining to earn a surprise draw.
It was not enough to propel the Cypriot side into the UEFA Europa League but the memory of how they stood up to one of the continent's dominant forces – albeit a side missing several first-choice players – will live with them for a long time. Marcin Żewłakow's early strike was overturned before half-time as Michael Essien and Didier Drogba got on the scoresheet. Chelsea continued to dominate and always looked the likely winners but they were rocked when, three minutes from time, substitute Nenad Mirosavljević stole in for the equaliser.
Carlo Ancelotti gave UEFA Champions League debuts to goalkeeper Ross Turnbull and Gaël Kakuta and the former was quickly called into action, plunging to his right to beat away Joost Broerse's shot on the turn after a cleverly-worked free-kick. It was a stark warning to Chelsea's rearguard, but not heeded as Żewłakow became the first player to breach them at home in eleven matches. Konstantinos Charalambides found enough time and space to engineer a sweet pass for the Polish striker to stride on to and easily beat the onrushing Turnbull.
It silenced much of Stamford Bridge while the 5,000-strong APOEL supporters let their surprise and delight be heard. The home fans were soon rising to cheer a Joe Cole header which flashed into the net following Florent Malouda's precise cross only for the offside flag to rule it out. Nevertheless, the shock of falling behind served to concentrate Chelsea minds and they were pouring forward in droves. The equaliser followed another well-constructed incursion into the heart of the visitors' defence with Essien taking possession before side-stepping his man and unleashing a firm drive which Dionisios Chiotis could not keep out.
Essien limped off shortly after but with Frank Lampard taking over there was unlikely to be any interruption to Chelsea's supremacy. Almost immediately Yuri Zhirkov advanced to find a crossing position down the left. Drogba pulled away from his markers and there was room aplenty to drive in the second. There was nothing at the start of the second half to suggest the balance of play was about to witness a significant change. Cole came close to Kakuta's low delivery while from a promising position Drogba sensed an opportunity to add to his recent tally of free-kick goals but aimed narrowly wide.
As the rain continued to pour down and Chelsea remained camped in the APOEL half, it seemed the only relevant issue was how many goals the home side would be satisfied with. Cole bounced a long cross off the crossbar but the look on his face was a giveaway that his intention had been to find a team-mate rather than go for goal. Terry had a goal ruled out and was then found wanting at the other end as Chelsea gave the ball away and Mirosavljević pounced to deliver the visitors a point.
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