Chelsea have plenty to do if they are to stay in the Europa League after going down to a 1-0 defeat to Steaua Bucharest in their Europa League last-16 first leg clash in Romania.
The Blues, with the returning John Terry among five changes from the team that beat West Brom at the weekend, were well below par and can have few complaints about the result as Steaua showed greater desire and were the better side throughout.
Steaua, fresh from their penalty shoot-out victory over Ajax in the last round, started well and won a succession of corners but failed to test Petr Cech from any of them, with Alexandru Chipsiu’s tame shot the best they could muster.
But Raul Lusescu put them ahead from the penalty spot on 34 minutes with the first effort on target from either side after Ryan Bertrand was harshly adjudged to have fouled Lusescu as he tried to control a Iasmin Latovlevici cross.
Yossi Benayoun had a chance to equalise almost immediately afterwards, but he scuffed his shot when well-positioned and Steaua goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu was easily able to get down to turn the ball away for a corner.
The home side continued to dominate after the break, with David Luiz and Terry forced to make vital interceptions to prevent the Romanaian side doubling their lead.
Chelsea did improve in the final 20 minutes as substitute Marko Marin drew a good save from Tatarusanu and Luiz sent a free-kick just over the crossbar from 25 yards.
But Steaua were good value for their victory in the end and Rafa Benitez’s side will need to put in a far better showing at Stamford Bridge next Thursday if they are to avoid being dumped out of a second European competition this season.