[VIDEO GOALS] Chelsea 4-1 MSK Zilina- Blues look back in bid for Euro glory
Written by Joe Carroll
Chelsea returned to where the Roman Revolution took last night and showed the same intent that was so fresh all those years ago- Chelsea are here to win the Champions League.
Carlo Ancelotti’s side recorded a comfortable 4-1 victory against MSK Zilina last night, the same opponents that faced a Chelsea side about to embark on the most epic of ‘Championship Manager’ style eras of football make-overs. The third qualifying round seven years ago determined who would progress into the competitions group stages, with Chelsea triumphing and going as far as the semi finals. And after last nights convincing win there is plenty of reason to suggest that the team at the pinnacle of Roman Abramovich’s ownership are now fully equipped to go even further.
Ironically though, whereas Claudio Ranieri’s team demonstrated the endless wealth that now sat prettily in the Stamford Bridge bank account, Ancelotti fielded a somewhat (and I use this term meekly of course) weakened side, with first team regulars such as Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Ashley Cole all rested. Not that the Blues were lacking in strength and quality and despite a bright start from a Zilina side making their first, excited appearance in the Champions League proper, Chelsea needed no invitation to take the game to the hosts.
Saturday’s surprise two goal hero Michael Essien got Chelsea on their way after 13 minutes. Summer signing Yossi Benayoun slid a precise pass down the channel for Nicolas Anelka, who spotted the Ghana international’s run from midfield. Anelka, whose impressive displays have been characterised by his unselfishness, provided the perfect pass across goal that Essien tucked away. The Frenchman though was not about to play second fiddle for much longer.
The striker’s movement along the line had been a worry for the Zilina rearguard in the early exchanges, and they were about to pay the price for letting Anelka breach the defence once too many in the 24th minute. Fellow countryman Florent Malouda found the forward with a chipped pass and Anelka found the time and space to fire home with his left foot.
Moments later and Anelka had his second, his team’s third and arguably had the game sewn up in just half an hour. Malouda again proved provider for his “l’ami” (I trust wiki-answers to cover for my embarrassing French) albeit via John Terry. Chelsea’s captain met the corner with a powerful header that crashed against the crossbar but fell fortunately for Anelka to tap in the rebound. A third of the game gone; the contest virtually over.
However the home side did threaten either side of Anelka’s brace. Robert Jez had a free-kick that caused goalkeeper Petr Cech a brief moment of panic, collecting the ball at the second attempt and the Czech stopper looked a little un-assured when Admir Vladavic twice tried his luck from long range.
But it was testament to Chelsea’s performance that they were reducing the home side to little more than speculative 30 yarders. A performance that illustrated just how far Chelsea have grown in European stature since their billionaire takeover. The performance also read like a ‘How To…’ in clinching victory in a tricky Eastern European venue: take your chances when they come your way, and don’t give the opposition a sniff. Ancelotti, having won four Champions League titles himself could well have written this book.
Moments after the restart, Daniel Sturridge took his rare chance of first team action by bagging a goal. Benayoun claimed his second assist of the evening by playing the youngster through. With the composure of a European veteran Sturridge rounded the ‘keeper before slotting the ball into an empty net.
If there was a footnote of criticism to mark on Chelsea’s otherwise splendid report card, it would be the complacency that led to the Slovakians pulling back some degree of respectability with a goal. Cech fumbled a cross on 55 minutes allowing Tomas Oravec to turn the ball over the line. Ancelotti will be disappointed rather than angry or upset that the Blues conceded, but having surrendered just two goals in five games, and bearing in mind they have countered that statistic with 21 goals scored, the Italian will no doubt reserve any harsh tickings off for now.
The night would ultimately belong to Chelsea and after the first half an hour it was never really in much doubt. The Stadium Pod Dubnom brought back memories of that brave and bold first step into what fans and club officials at the time hoped would be the beginning of a grand and glorious expedition into the echelons of European greatness. Seven years on, and Chelsea have again made one small step towards achieving Champions League success. And whilst it is only a small step for now, the Blues are standing a lot closer to the prize with a much greater chance of standing tall with the European giants.