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MŠK Žilina 1-4 Chelsea


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MŠK Žilina 1-4 Chelsea

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Josh McEachran made his début as Chelsea cruised to victory against Slovakian champions MŠK Žilina.

The win was relatively routine - Chelsea had established a comfortable 3-0 lead within half an hour, but a spirited second half performance from the hosts saw them grab a consolation goal when Petr Cech missed a cross, allowing Tomas Oravec to poke home after confusion in the Chelsea penalty area.

But the Žilina goal was academic - Carlo Ancelotti's side had already guaranteed the perfect start to their quest to win the Champions League; a trophy which has thus far evaded Roman Abramovich. Michael Essien continued his rich vein of form in front of goal by opening the scoring, before a Nicolas Anelka brace and a first Champions League goal for Daniel Sturridge secured an emphatic victory for the Blues.

Ancelotti was even given the luxury of bringing on a number of Chelsea's rising stars - 17 year-old Josh McEachran was joined by fellow substitutes Gael Kakuta and Patrick van Aanholt as the Chelsea manager shuffled his pack. Ashley Cole, Paulo Ferreira, Ramires and Salomon Kalou were rested, whilst Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard missed out through suspension and injury respectively. Sturridge, Yuri Zhirkov and the excellent Yossi Benayoun all made their first starts of the season.

As expected, Žilina came out of the starting blocks at lightning-quick speed in a bid to unnerve the Blues amidst a cacophony of noise generated by their home supporters, but it was Chelsea who opened the scoring on 13 minutes when Essien found the bottom corner after an incisive passing move down the left. Anelka's run split the home side's defence apart, before his pull-back was cleverly left by Florent Malouda, enabling Essien to bury his third goal in two matches.

Robert Jez then brought a save out of Petr Cech with a low free-kick that was well-dealt with by the Chelsea goalkeeper; the slippery ball initially evading the Czech's grip but the Chelsea goalkeeper recovered well. Babatounde Bello then was presented with a chance, but just as the home side looked to have the measure of Ancelotti's men, it was 2-0 thanks to a neat Anelka finish.

Malouda supplied the killer through-ball, and Anelka's effort was low and true - although goalkeeper Martin Dubravka should definitely have done better considering the angle. Nevertheless, Chelsea were home and hosed with barely 24 minutes left.

Four minutes later, Anelka had his second. Malouda's corner was headed goalwards by John Terry, who saw his effort tipped on to the woodwork by Dubravka. However the ball fell kindly for the Blues, with both Anelka and Alex in position to sweep the ball home from a yard. The Frenchman did the honours and with less than a third of the game completed, Chelsea's assault on the Champions League was in full flight.

Chelsea were not yet done and had another decent effort to increase the score just before half-time. In a well-worked team move, Terry fed the marauding Yuri Zhirkov who was spending more time in the opponent's half than his own. The Russian slipped the ball to Malouda who was denied only by a very brave block by a Žilina defender. Admir Vladavic forced a good save out of Cech before the half was done, but the Blues were cruising.

Barely a minute was on the clock when it was made 4-0 thanks to a brilliant move that was capped off by the best finish of the match. Benayoun - who had grown in influence throughout the first half - played a perfect through-ball for Sturridge to run to. An example of calmness and composure, Sturridge rounded Dubravka and slotted home confidently for his first ever Champions League goal. The Chelsea players celebrated in front of the pocket of supporters from West London - the Blues were well on their way to another goal-fest.

But the chances of another 6-0 romp were quashed when lacklustre goalkeeping from Cech handed the hosts a reprieve. Missing a cross, the ball unfortunately hit the bemused Ivanovic, who could only look on as Oravec poked home a consolation - at least the home fans now had a goal to celebrate. What will anger Ancelotti was the nature of the goal - it was entirely self-inflicted and totally avoidable.

The vociferous home support had warranted some reward, and the Žilina fans were nearly celebrating a second goal but Vladavic crashed a shot into the side netting with Cech at full stretch looking nervous. The Chelsea goalkeeper then fumbled a catch under pressure, and in doing so surrendered a corner - thankfully it was fruitless from a Chelsea perspective.

With the four-goal lead established, Sturridge made way for Gael Kakuta on the hour mark while Žilina replaced ex-Chelsea reserves player Momodou Ceesay with Tomás Majtan.

Dubravka then denied Essien a second goal of the game when he scooped the Ghanaian's drive from distance away from danger, but there was a decent penalty shout for the Blues when Malouda was hacked down in the box despite the presence of UEFA's extra official behind the goalline, thus robbing Anelka of a chance to secure his hat-trick.

The Blues did have the ball in the net once more - Kakuta firing home but only after the offside flag had been raised against Anelka who was fighting tooth and nail for one decent chance to score his third of the game. By this point, McEachran and van Aanholt had joined the action, replacing Benayoun and Malouda. Anelka did get another chance, but fired wide from an acute angle - and a Jez freekick at the other end left Cech untroubled as Ancelotti's side played out the remaining minutes in relative comfort.

The result will please the Chelsea manager, and he will no doubt be happy with the goalscoring form of his side, as well as the excellent performance of Yossi Benayoun. Chelsea fans will be delighted seeing McEachran for the first time in the senior squad, whilst Kakuta also showed glimpses of brilliance in his cameo role. Daniel Sturridge also impressed; his goal well-taken - and John Mikel Obi, Michael Essien and Nicolas Anelka were all at their imperious best.

Tougher challenges await but the win is the perfect tonic as the Blues look to cure their Champions League hangover.

___________________________________________________________________

MŠK Žilina - Dubravka; Guldan (Angelovic 78), Piacek, Pecalka, Mraz; Jez, Bello; Rilke, Ceesay (Majtan 60), Vladavic; Oravec

Chelsea - Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry ©, Zhirkov; Benayoun (McEachran 78), Essien, Mikel; Malouda (Van Aanholt 88), Anelka, Sturridge (Kakuta 60)

The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match was Chelsea's number 10, Yossi Benayoun

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