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Chelsea 4-0 Atlético


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mhstand1.jpgWednesday 21 October 2009, UEFA Champions League, Group Stage, Stamford Bridge, West London

The disappointments of Chelsea's visit to Villa Park on Saturday have truly been forgotten.

As James Collins wheeled away to celebrate what would eventually turn out to be a brilliant winning goal for Martin O'Neill's side, John Terry could be seen kicking the ball away and hitting the post in sheer frustration. By contrast, the Chelsea and England skipper was amongst the first to congratulate two-goal striker Salomon Kalou after the Ivorian sent Chelsea to the brink of Champions League Group Stage qualification after Carlo Ancelotti's side recorded a third straight victory in the competition.

And though Atletico Madrid - a side struggling for form domestically - lack the same physical presence of Aston Villa and Saturday's opponents Blackburn Rovers, Petr Cech's clean sheet is a welcome reprieve after much public criticism from both the media and the Chelsea manager. John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic were terrific against the precocious talent of the Spanish side's frontline of Diego Forlan and alleged Blues transfer target Sergio 'el Kun' Aguero, and fullbacks Belletti and Cole were full of attacking intent; the latter supplying the cross from Kalou's opener.

In terms of entertainment, Chelsea's football clinical and efficient rather than flowing and beautiful, but the Blues were fluent with their passing and movement around the box was irresistible. Frank Lampard was full of invention and the marauding runs of Michael Essien had the Spanish defence on the back foot, and the industrious display of Michael Ballack was nigh-on faultless.

In truth, it was the perfect response to the weekend loss at Villa Park. 4-0 equals Chelsea's biggest ever Champions League victory at Stamford Bridge, and Frank Lampard's goal for the club takes him above Jimmy Greaves in the club's top goalscorers list with 133, and into fifth position behind a certain Peter Osgood. Daniel Sturridge made his Stamford Bridge bow and Deco made his 100th career European performance, whilst Cech edged closer to his 125th career clean sheet - the Czech goalkeeper, who also made his 50th Champions League appearance for the club, now stands at 122 shutouts.

After the set-piece calamities of the previous Saturday, Ancelotti chose to play Juliano Belletti at right-back; moving Ivanovic into the centre to partner skipper John Terry. Ricardo Carvalho was relegated to the bench. Salomon Kalou replaced the suspended Didier Drogba, who was serving the final game of his European ban, and Michael Ballack returned to the starting eleven after missing the defeat at Aston Villa. Young stars Jeffrey Bruma and Daniel Sturridge were both on the bench, alongside Joe Cole and Yuri Zhirkov, who would come on to make his European début for his new club.

The game began with a fast and lively tempo, with Belletti at the heart of Chelsea's early menace. The Brazilian fullback sent in an early low cross that tested Sergio Asenjo's handling - the goalkeeper passed his first test. Moments later, the former Barcelona defender centred the ball for Kalou to attack, but the Ivorian failed to control his header under pressure from Tomas Ujfalusi.

Former Manchester United striker Diego Forlan than burst into life; first firing straight at Cech before producing a fine save from the Chelsea goalkeeper as his header from Simao's cross was caught by the Czech Republic goalkeeper, who made a fine reaction save. Chelsea had the ball in the net moments later, but Frank Lampard's freekick was ruled out after Asenjo collided with the offside Kalou, who was deemed to be interfering with play - it was nonetheless an absolute howler from the talented young goalkeeper.

Kalou's evening took another turn for the worse when he inexplicably missed an open goal from ten yards from Michael Ballack's clever pass inside the defender. The Ivorian's blushes were saved slightly by an offside flag, but the Chelsea number 21 was so far having a match to forget. The Chelsea fans voiced their disapproval, but the Blues' skipper John Terry was quick to console the young striker and offered much encouragement to the player.

Petr Cech then pulled off a save for the cameras as he tipped away a shot from nowhere as Forlan brilliantly engineered himself a yard of space outside of the area. In truth it was straight at Cech, but with Aguero following the shot in, the goalkeeper had to push the ball away from immediate danger. Asenjo then excelled at the opposite end of the field as he palmed away a deflected effort from Kalou; the resulting corner saw John Terry's flick on agonisingly evade the Ivorian's forehead.

Kalou made amends for his earlier horror show with a clinical finish on the end of a beautiful Chelsea move. Lampard played a majestic pass inside the fullback to Ashley Cole, who picked Kalou out effortlessly with a raking ball across the six yard box. The Ivorian's finish was emphatic, beating Asenjo, and Chelsea had the lead their dominance warranted. Late efforts from Santana and Sima were wayward, and Cech plucked a delivery from the latter from the sky with ease.

The second half lacked the same energy that the first had began with, and it took six minutes for the first serious attacking play to occur. Nicolas Anelka, a peripheral figure for much of the first forty five minutes, picked up the ball and launched a stinging effort from range that Asenjo was forced to athletically tip over. A yard or two either side of the goalkeeper, and Stamford Bridge might just have witnessed one of the goals of the season.

The way in which Chelsea scored the second goal was the stuff of dreams for tabloid editors. With much being made of the Blues' inability to defend set pieces at the weekend against Aston Villa, for Salomon Kalou to execute a Frank Lampard corner and put Chelsea 2-0 up was irony at its best. The corner was won when a long throw from Belletti caused havoc in the area, with Asenjo having to spread himself to parry the ball behind for a corner. Lampard's delivery to the back post was a peach, and Kalou made no mistake from ten yards.

Cech then saved from Aguero as the little Argentina sprung into life; latching on to a poor headed clearance from Ivanovic, the striker burst into the area but his shot was saved by the body of the goalkeeper, who had done well to race out to narrow the angle.

On 68 minutes, Frank Lampard scored his first goal in eleven matches to end a barren spell. Last season, the Chelsea vice-captain scored in the 5-0 rout of Sunderland before going ten games without scoring - an identical spell this season following his penalty in a 3-1 win away at the Stadium of Light was ended with a trademark low finish from 25 yards. Essien combined with the England midfielder, who took a touch before beating Asenjo with ease. The Matthew Harding End stood in appreciation - Lampard was back.

Kalou then left the field to a standing ovation only seconds after Anelka's cross to the far post was missed by the Ivorian by a matter of inches. Yuri Zhirkov came on for his Champions League bow, before Florent Malouda and young Daniel Sturridge also entered the field of play - Anelka and Ashley Cole made way. Jose Reyes, formerly of Arsenal, was given the expected welcome of a chorus of 40,000 boos as he entered the pitch moments later.

Belletti was a late booking for the Blues but the hosts were not yet done; Florent Malouda's freekick was headed into his own goal by Perea to cap off a perfect return to form for Ancelotti's men. Much had been made of Chelsea defeats to Wigan and Aston Villa in recent weeks, but replies in the form of a 1-0 win in Nicosia and a 4-0 hammering of Atletico Madrid mean that Chelsea are still a force to be reckoned with.

European qualification looks imminent for the Blues, who go to Spain for the return fixture in a fortnight, knowing they could qualify with a draw should Porto also beat APOEL in Cyprus.

___________________________________________________________________

Chelsea (4-1-3-2): Cech; Belletti, Ivanovic, Terry ©, A Cole (Malouda 74); Essien; Ballack, Lampard; Deco; Kalou (Zhirkov 72), Anelka (Sturridge 77)

Atlético (4-4-2): Sergio Asenjo; Ujfalusi, Perea, Alvaro Dominguez, Antonio Lopez ©; Cleber Santana (Maxi Rodriguez 65), Paulo Assuncao (Jurado 53), Raul Garcia, Simao (Reyes 76); Forlan, Aguero

The TalkChelsea.net Star Man was Chelsea's number 26; John Terry

Atletico-Terry.jpg

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