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Spartak Moscow 0-2 Chelsea: Blues warm to the task in cold conditions


Written by Joe Carroll.

Chelsea recorded another impressive victory on their European travels last night, overcoming a strong Spartak Moscow side 2-0 in the Russian capital.

Chelsea’s very own Russian winger Yuri Zhirkov scored the opener, his first in a blue shirt, with the in-form Nicolas Anelka grabbing the second before half time. The Blues braved the freezing colds of the Luzhniki Stadium and their reception from the inhospitable home fans made for a less than warm welcome. Add to these the recent history of their Champions League failure at this very stadium in 2008, and it was easy to see why some Chelsea fans were not particularly looking forward to the trip.

But Carlo Ancelotti in his 100th Champions League tie as manager sent the Blues faithful home in high spirits after a glowing performance did enough to break the ice and the Spartak rearguard in this potentially tricky encounter

The hosts began well though, and having won their last two Group F games their was every optimism in the Spartak camp that they could intimidate the English early on in the hope of causing an upset.  Dmitri Kamborov sent an early chance over the bar when Sergei Parshivlyuk’s pace had Chelsea on the back foot.  Petr Cech then came to the rescue for Ancelotti’s side after the back four allowed Welliton enough time in the area to turn and get a shot away.  The Brazilian is the Russian league’s top scorer and it looked like the hit-man may have transferred his skill onto the European stage had it not been for the leg of the Blue’s imposing stopper.

With ten minutes gone on the clock and an adequate amount of pressure absorbed, the visitors felt it was their turn to make their mark on the game.  Michael Essien and Solomon Kalou both went close with speculative efforts before Zhirkov’s stunning opener.  Back on home turf the Russian international took it upon himself to undo the Spartak defence.  A long ball from John Obi Mikel looked like it had been dealt with by the home team, but the ball sat up perfectly for the Chelsea number 18 who was running onto the clearance with pace.  With one fell swoop of his left boot the ball hit the net before the Spartak keeper had a chance to try and stop it.  The winger couldn’t have imagined his first Blues goal any better.

Chelsea then began to grow more and more in confidence and class, with Anelka leading from the front; chasing defenders, playing the channels, holding the ball.  And with just a few minutes remaining of the first half the Frenchman received his reward.  A charging run from the dominant Essien gave Anelka the space to receive the ball in the left channel.  Now with the Spartak defence on the back foot, Anelka does what he does best, whilst making it look so easy.  Running at Parshivlyuk with the raw pace he has as an 18 year old, the former Arsenal man cut in on his right and caressed a superb right footed effort into the corner beyond the stretching keeper.

With half the job done and their attacking exploits justly rewarded  Chelsea could expect a very different second half.  The home side, willed on by their faithful fanatics promptly sought the goal that would get them back into this game.  Kamborov and Welliton added to their shots tally form the first half but to no avail and even ex Celtic winger Aiden McGeady, who has enjoyed an impressive start to life in Russia, let fly with a stinging effort that Cech did well to turn over after taking a devious deflection.

For Chelsea, the half was about maintaining their lead and preserving the precious 3 points that would take them a big leap closer to qualification from this stage of the competition.  Kalou was replaced with teenage prodigy Joshua McCreachan who let no one down with another strong performance that proves his appraisal just.

With his help the Blues with held a Spartak onslaught to record a third straight victory in Group F.  Topping the table, they now require only one point from their remaining three games to guarantee safe passage into the next round.  Whilst it did not have the feel of a  typical ‘snatch and grab’, the statistics would suggest just that.  Chelsea had just three shots on target to Spartak’s 11, however this perhaps says more about Chelsea’s clinical nature under the stewardship of Ancelotti than it does about the home side’s inability to convert chances.

The Blues boss was full of praise for his players in his post match comments:

“I think that we played a good game, it was not an easy game because I think Spartak in the second half played a good game, tried to come into it at 2-0 down, but in the first half we scored two goals and had more control”

Chelsea have developed a pleasing habit in recent times of going to difficult venues across Europe and getting the job done- defending resolutely, and proving clinical when chances come their way.  On this evidence, there’s no sign of cold feet from Carlo’s men on the big European stage.  If anything, their just warming themselves up for the big boys.

You can watch the goals here.

How do you rate Chelsea’s performance in Moscow?…Having dismantled their group so easily, do you think they will be up for the challenge of a ‘bigger’ team?…please leave your comments below…

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