Chelsea reached the knockout round of the Champions League on Tuesday despite conceding an injury-time equalizer in a 2-2 draw with Atletico Madrid.
Chelsea striker Didier Drogba scored two late goals on his return from a three-match ban for the Blues to top Group D with 10 points. FC Porto also advanced from the group after beating APOEL Nicosia 1-0 to move to nine points. Atletico has two and APOEL one. "That's the main thing, really," Drogba said of Chelsea's advancement. "It was difficult. We could have played better." Following a scoreless first half at Vicente Calderon stadium, Atletico substitute Sergio Aguero scored in the 66th minute. Aguero showed why Chelsea made a reported euro50 million ($74 million) offer for the Argentine in the offseason, being perfectly placed to volley defender John Terry's attempted clearance into the top of the net for the Spanish club's first goal of the competition. Drogba, playing for the first time in Europe since a foul-mouthed tirade in May, was left unmarked in the 82nd minute to head Florent Malouda's cross home and equalize.
"We had a very good reaction," Chelsea coach Carlo Ancelotti said before praising Drogba. "He is in a good moment. I'm very happy for his behavior and I hope he can continue." The Ivory Coast striker looked to have won it for Chelsea in the 88th when he slotted in the rebound after goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo had stopped his initial shot.
But Aguero curled a free kick from the edge of the area beyond goalkeeper Petr Cech in the first minute of injury time to level. Despite Chelsea currently being banned from signing players for the next two transfer windows, Ancelotti hinted that the Blues' pursuit of Aguero may not be finished.
"I like him. Aguero can play with Drogba for sure," the Italian said.
Atletico now has two games to secure its place in the Europa League, including a match against last-place APOEL. Atletico coach Quique Sanchez Flores said the result provided a psychological lift ahead of Saturday's derby against Real Madrid. "The team was playing well. We never looked like we were in trouble," Sanchez Flores said. "We created chances, so there's no need to say anything negative."
Sanchez Flores said Aguero has a leg injury but will be available to play Madrid.
The hosts enjoyed the better run of play in the first half, with Cech stretching to stop Juan Antonio Reyes' curling shot in the 21st. Soon after, Atletico's Pablo Ibanez executed an excellent sliding tackle to deny Drogba a clear run into the area. Atletico picked up where it left off in the second half, pressuring but unable to find the back of the net. Cleber Santana headed over, but Chelsea hit back in attack with Asenjo having to turn Drogba's free kick on to the post.
Quique Sanchez Flores was leading Atletico in Europe for the first time since Abel Resino was fired following the 4-0 defeat at Stamford Bridge two weeks ago. The coach brought Aguero on in the 53rd, and the young striker immediately troubled the defense. Aguero came close again in the 74th but couldn't reach a pass from Simao Sabrosa to the far post. Chelsea then began to press with more urgency - Asenjo coming out to deny Frank Lampard and Deco then collecting the rebound but shooting wide.
"One-nil down, we keep playing and try to come back stronger," Drogba said, adding that "we need that character" for Sunday's game against Manchester United.