Chelsea’s hopes of reaching the UEFA Champions League knockout stages suffered a huge blow on after they lost 2-1 at Bayer Leverkusen, a defeat that will increase the pressure on manager Andre Villas-Boas.
A header from Leverkusen defender Manuel Friedrich in the 91st minute saw the hosts round off a great comeback which saw them come from 1-0 down to seal a valuable win which sends them top of Group E.
Valencia’s 7-0 rout Genk leaves them second with Chelsea now third in the table, but just one point separates the three teams.
After Ivory Coast star Didier Drogba’s second-half strike had put the guests ahead, Swiss striker Eren Derdiyok came off the bench to equalise before Friedrich’s dramatic winner.
With his side having lost three of their last four Barclays Premier League matches, defeat in Leverkusen is sure to amplify the pressure on Villas-Boas, in his first season, as his team suffered their second straight defeat.
Chelsea must now beat Valencia at Stamford Bridge in a fortnight to go through, while Leverkusen can afford to draw at Genk to make the Last 16.
In London, Robin van Persie scored twice as Arsenal booked their place in the knockout phase with a 2-1 defeat of German side Borussia Dortmund.
Dutch international van Persie took his tally for the season to a remarkable 21 in all competitions with two second-half goals that ensured the Premier League side will finish Group F in top spot with one game left.
Van Persie’s double strike underscored the Arsenal captain’s importance to the English club, who have gradually got their campaign back on track after a disastrous start.
Van Persie struck in the 49th and 86th minutes to finally snuff out the challenge of the Bundesliga side.
Japan international Shinji Kagawa scored a late consolation for Dortmund in injury time, but it was too little too late as Arsenal reached the last 16 of the Champions League for the 12th straight year.
Bayer Leverkusen (GER) 2 Chelsea (ENG) 1
Valencia (ESP) 7 RC Genk (BEL) 0
Marseille (FRA) 0 Olympiakos (GRE) 1
Arsenal (ENG) 2 Borussia Dortmund (GER) 1
Zenit Saint Petersburg (RUS) 0 APOEL Nicosia (CYP) 0
Shakhtar Donetsk (UKR) 0 Porto (POR) 2
AC Milan (ITA) 2 Barcelona (ESP) 3
BATE Borisov (BLR) 0 Viktoria Plzen (CZE) 1
by Buford Balony