[VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS] Chelsea 2-1 MSK Zilina: Kid’s show missing spirit to give Blues a lift
Written by Joe Carroll.
A youthful Chelsea side came from behind to win 2-1 against MSK Zilina, helping to stop their recent run of poor results as well as maintaining their 100% record in the Champions League this season.
A Babatounde Bello strike after 19 minutes almost condemned Chelsea to a third straight defeat in all competitions, but a spirited fightback from a team largely made up of inexperienced kids ensured that Carlo Ancelotti’s side took the three points available. Young striker Daniel Sturridge and the more experienced Florent Malouda were at hand to spare Blues’ blushes at Stamford Bridge.
Although the game lacked significance for either team in terms of qualification- Chelsea mathematically through to the knock-out stages; Zilina mathematically unable to qualify- it offered coach Ancelotti the opportunity to safely blood the future of the club in a competition they hold high hopes of winning. Had the club not experienced their worst fortnight in recent memory, there might not have been as much pressure on Chelsea’s teens to get a result tonight. Unfortunately, the need to taste victory after three defeats in four was too great, and the onus was on the kids to stand up and be counted.
It was a bold statement from the Italian coach to put such unwavering faith in his young players; following the uncertainty over his own future after the sacking of his assistant Ray Wilkins, few would blame him had he selected a full-strength side in order to gain a morale boosting white-wash. And after a shaky start to the game, few would be forgiven for thinking he’d made the wrong call.
Chelsea struggled somewhat to find any fluency to their game and Zilina, sensing this uncertainty sought to cause an upset. On 19 minutes the visitors took a shock lead. The move which led to the opener was one that did not look out of place at the Bridge; the only difference being it was not carried out in the blue of Chelsea. Bello exchanged passes with his skipper Robert Jez, and making use of the space between Jeffrey Bruma and Paulo Ferreira, the striker struck the return ball first time past Ross Turnbull.
In all fairness to the Zilina man, Bello finished the chance well, but Chelsea will be looking at themselves and asking why he was allowed the opportunity in the first place. If the home side needed a wake up call it was this, but they still struggled to show any true attacking intent that would draw them level, never mind win them the game. In fact the visitors almost doubled their lead shortly after. Tomas Majtan again found space around the Chelsea area and it took a good palm from Turnbull to prevent his strike causing more doom and gloom in West London.
It did not make for pleasant viewing, but slowly and very surely Chelsea were beginning to work their way through the gears. Sturridge was beginning to look more like the exciting prospect we’ve been hearing about for so long, and had it not been for a keener awareness in front of goal, Chelsea might have been on level terms sooner. The young striker found himself bearing down on the keeper and struck for goal. His effort flashed wide and if he had looked across the penalty area, he would have found a better placed Dider Drogba ready to tap home.
But Chelsea were at least making chances and an equaliser looked imminent. It will have been encouraged by a half-time team talk from an under pressure coach desperate to loosen the noose round his neck, but the vital goal came from Sturridge who vindicated his boss’ decision not to replace him with Nicolas Anelka. It took just 15 minutes after the break, and although there was an element of luck in the way the opportunity came about, their was no doubt in Sturridge’s cool finish. A Salomon Kalou cross evaded everyone, and the young striker took advantage of some lazy marking at the back post to convert through the legs of Dubravka.
With the teams now at level pegging and Chelsea’s youngsters starting to look like they belonged on this stage, the scene was set for the Blues to bring victory home. Drogba had a headed chance well saved by the Zilina keeper, while Ramires who started the game sent a long range effort whistling past the post. The visitor’s goal was under siege and there was only so long their defence could hold out.
With four minutes of normal time left to tick, Chelsea found a way past the Zilina rearguard. The impressive Sturridge had been replaced by journeyman Nicolas Anelka, who combined with Drogba- the oldest players wearing blue. If the Blues could rely on any pairing to conjure a late goal, it was this experienced duo. Anelka clipped in a gorgeous ball from the left which Drogba rose to meet and won. His knock down found Malouda who had made a bursting run and the Frenchman found the net from three yards.
It was an impressive fightback from a team whose average age was 24; midfielder Josh McCreachan who contributes just 17 years to the side put in an especially mature performance in the worlds most exciting club competition. Ancelotti can be happy with the manner in which his youngsters fought back although the questions surrounding his sides defensive capabilities will not go away any time soon.
But there is much to be happy about after a woeful fortnight that most would rather forget. Chelsea are back to winning ways; the kids got a good run out, adding valuable big stage experience to their development; and their 100% winning record is still intact and 1st place assured. Youth did its job tonight albeit with a helping hand from the ‘aged’. Now its over the senior’s to stand up and be counted, and get back to winning ways in the Premier League- perhaps with the helping hand of youth.
Click here for highlights of Chelsea 2-1 Zilina
Does this result put Chelsea back on the right track?…What was the significance of Chelsea’s youth playing last night?…Who do you think can blossom and thrive with the Blues?…please leave your comments below…
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