Drogba drags Blues back into contention with equalizing goal

AFP , LONDON

Fri, Apr 06, 2007 - Page 22

Didier Drogba kept Chelsea's Champions League challenge alive with a second half equalizer to earn a 1-1 draw against Valencia on Wednesday.

Drogba -- who became the first Chelsea player since Kerry Dixon over 20 years ago to score 30 goals in a season -- came to Chelsea's rescue after David Silva's stunning long-range strike had put Valencia in control of a hard-fought quarter-final first leg clash at Stamford Bridge.

Jose Mourinho's side will feel they are still in with a chance of reaching the semi-finals, but they will have to improve on this tepid display if they are to overcome Valencia in next Tuesday's return at the Mestalla.

The eternally optimist manager, though, still believed that his side can pull it off.

"It is open, completely open," said Mourinho of the tie. "A draw at home is normally a bad result but not this one. I believe they [Valencia] think they can win it. But why can we not go there [Valencia] get a draw and then win in extra-time."

However his counterpart at Valencia, Quique Sanchez Flores, insisted his side had achieved their aim.

"We succeeded in what we wanted to do and that was that the tie would be decided in Valencia," said Flores. "If one believes in the statistics on how away teams perform at Stamford Bridge, then it is a good result."

Valencia were without a host of key players through injury and suspension, but the Spanish side still coped comfortably with Chelsea's sporadic threats.

The English champions never really found their stride and are now in danger of not only losing their Premiership title, they are currently six points adrift of Manchester United, but also of being knocked out of Europe's elite club competition for a third successive season under Mourinho.