Chelsea denied Champions League knockout spot by late Valencia goal

Valencia and Chelsea played out a thrilling draw, with Daniel Wass getting a fortunate late leveller for the hosts.

Valencia midfielder Daniel Wass   -  Getty Images

Daniel Wass scored a fortuitous and crucial late equaliser for Valencia to secure a 2-2 draw at home to Chelsea on Wednesday in a thrilling contest that left Champions League Group H wide open.

Frank Lampard's men had looked on course to leave Mestalla with the victory that would have clinched their spot in the knockout phase after Christian Pulisic's go-ahead strike was added to by a Kepa Arrizabalaga penalty save, but Wass' effort led to a share of the spoils.

A dramatic, end-to-end first half saw both sides threaten regularly and, despite some wretched finishing, two goals in as many minutes from Carlos Soler and Mateo Kovacic – his first for Chelsea – meant the score was level at the interval.

 

Everything looked to be going Chelsea's way after Pulisic struck and Kepa parried Dani Parejo's penalty, but Wass' right-wing cross went straight in with eight minutes left to rescue Valencia, which would have won it but for an inexcusable stoppage-time miss by Rodrigo.

 

Maxi Gomez let Chelsea off the hook twice in a wild first half, the Uruguayan completely missing the ball a few yards out for the first chance, before Kepa then saved from a similarly presentable opportunity.

Soler made no such mistake after 40 minutes, however, turning in Rodrigo's cross a few moments after Jasper Cillessen acrobatically denied Tammy Abraham.

But he was helpless to prevent Kovacic swiftly equalising, the Croatian finding the bottom-left corner from 20 yards.

Chelsea was concerned to lose Abraham to injury at the interval, though that did not prevent it taking the lead in the 50th minute – Pulisic prodding in from close range after Kurt Zouma's knockdown, the goal allowed to stand after a lengthy VAR check for a potential offside.

Valencia failed to restore parity just past the hour when Kepa denied Parejo following a tangle involving Jorginho and Jose Gaya.

The host's persistence was rewarded when Wass' first-time cross late on went over Kepa and found the net, but that was where its luck ended, as Rodrigo incredibly missed the target from a few yards out in the sixth minute of stoppage time.

What does it mean? Ajax in the driving seat

Chelsea, level on points with Valencia on eight, remains in a decent position heading into its final game, particularly given that contest will be against bottom-of-the-group Lille. If it wins, it will be through.

But Valencia's inability to win means it will almost certainly need to beat Ajax in Amsterdam next time out.

Either way, if Ajax beats Lille later on Wednesday, it will be in complete control at the top of the group.

Kovacic catches the eye

Since his move from Real Madrid was made permanent, few Chelsea players have been more consistent than Kovacic.

One area in which Lampard has urged him to improve is in front of goal, and he finally got his first strike for the club. Other than that he was generally solid in midfield, having four shots and creating one chance.

Gomez and Moreno fail to deliver

Valencia had enough presentable chances to score about five in this contest. Between them, Gomez and Rodrigo spurned three glorious opportunities, all of which should have been converted. It was a day to forget for both.

Key Opta Facts

- Chelsea has played more Champions League away games against Valencia without losing than any against any other opponent in the competition (W2 D2).
- Carlos Soler's goal was Valencia's 100th in the Champions League on home soil, joining Real Madrid and Barcelona as the three Spanish teams to have done reached this landmark. Indeed, only England (4) has more sides to do so in the competition.
- Matteo Kovacic has scored his first goal in 122 appearances across all club competitions, netting his first goal for Chelsea on his 71st appearance, and with his 45th shot.

What's next?

Chelsea finishes its group stage campaign on December 10 at home to Lille, which follows domestic meetings with West Ham, Aston Villa and Everton. Valencia travels to Ajax in its next European contest after two local derbies with Villarreal and Levante.

Ajax soars to the top

Ajax relocated its Champions League swagger to go top of Group H with a 2-0 win over Lille.

Erik ten Hag's entertainer took a solitary point from its back-to-back meetings with Chelsea but Hakim Ziyech put it ahead early on at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy.

A hero of last season's unlikely run to the semifinals, Ziyech's brilliant goal launched an outing where the Eredivisie champions was typically dazzling and vulnerable.

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