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Chelsea 4-1 Spartak Moscow


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Chelsea 4-1 Spartak Moscow

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Wednesday 3 November 2010, Stamford Bridge

Nicolas Anelka netted whilst Branislav Ivanovic scored a brace as Chelsea secured progression to the Champions League knockout rounds in style with an emphatic rout of Russian side Spartak Moscow.

Though they had been somewhat disappointing in a dour first half, Carlo Ancelotti's side were exciting and entertaining after the interval and recorded an early breakthrough when Nicolas Anelka showed great composure to slot home his tenth goal of the season. Didier Drogba then coolly scored from the penalty spot before Ivanovic continued his goalscoring exploits at Ewood Park with two goals sandwiched either side of a late Spartak consolation.

Chelsea were good value for their lead come the final whistle; their second half showing had been amongst their most entertaining performances seen at Stamford Bridge in recent times, and the Blues now qualify for the next round with two games yet to play. Chelsea are all-but-guaranteed top spot in the group as only two defeats and a catastrophic swing of goal difference would deny the Blues a supposedly more favourable draw in the round of sixteen.

With the impending visit to Liverpool looming ever closer, Ancelotti took the opportunity to rest a handful of key players, though both Florent Malouda and Michael Essien were nursing minor knocks. Captain John Terry watched on from a youthful bench, whilst Paulo Ferreira, Salomon Kalou and Ramires came into the side that came from behind at Ewood Park. Spartak were boosted by the return of influential playmaker and skipper Alex, and it was the Brazilian midfielder who instigated a promising start by the visitors.

Beaten eventually quite comfortably in the reverse fixture, the Russian outfit had been criticised for showing Chelsea too much respect in Moscow, but perhaps the opposite was more accurate on this occasion as the travelling supporters were treated to a confident start by their side. Former Celtic winger Aiden McGeady first bent an effort wide of the post before the in-form Petr Cech saw his palms warmed by a decent strike from distance by Alex.

At the other end, Chelsea's prolific striker Anelka demonstrated his confidence and quality when he cut inside and sent a swerving effort narrowly wide of the post, whilst both Drogba and Chelsea's very own Alex were guilt of miskicks as a clever Yuri Zhirkov free-kick created a chance for his marauding team mates. Drogba then headed an effort over from another Zhirkov delivery as Chelsea searched for an elusive opener.

Spartak goalkeeper Dykan then saved well from an angled Drogba drive, but Chelsea's performance was lacklustre and insipid; lacking the guile gifted to them by Florent Malouda, Michael Essien's drive and determination and Frank Lampard's incisive midfield play, Chelsea were being contained effectively by their opponents. The build-up play was largely laboured but rather frustratingly, the Blues would sporadically loosen their shackles and carve the opposition open; but just to prove a point, Ashley Cole was guilty of a poor final ball after strong work down the left by the influential Zhirkov.

The difference between Chelsea's first half performance and their showing after the half-time break was perhaps best demonstrated by two passages of play two minutes either side of the interval. With 43 minutes played, Ivanovic's flick-on from Zhirkov's corner found Alex, but the Brazilian could only hit the ball over the bar with his shin from two yards out. Conversely, Nicolas Anelka's finish on 47 from an acute angle was testament to the Blues' quality and capability to shift through the gears with minimal effort.

Anelka's finish was one of great composure; despite being closed down by the goalkeeper, he found himself lash the ball into the top corner after a clever give-and-go with Salomon Kalou, who like the Frenchman was enjoying an excellent performance either side of Drogba.

With Chelsea having finally produced the opening goal, the home side were suddenly buoyed with renewed attacking vigour and set about extending their lead. It was a wait of barely fifteen minutes for Chelsea's impatient supporters, and it was Drogba's first goal in a month and his seventh of the season as he lethally dispatched a penalty kick awarded for a foul on the Chelsea stand-in skipper on 62 minutes.

Ancelotti's side were in cruise control without having played at their imperious best, but this was nonetheless a competent and impressive display from his injury-stricken team. John Mikel Obi, another player who has seen a recent resurgence in form and confidence, soon made way for young starlet Joshua McEachran, but not before Branislav Ivanovic added to his late winner at Ewood Park with a trademark downward header.

The Serb had threatened to add to his two Champions League goals - scored in historic fashion at Anfield in 2009 - proving to be a thorn in the side of the Spartak defence at set-pieces over both fixtures, he made no mistake from 8 yards as he bulleted home his fifth Chelsea goal with aplomb. Drogba had delivered the ball from out wide after a foul on Zhirkov, and the pair celebrated Chelsea's progression to the last sixteen in front of their adoring supporters.

With qualification guaranteed, Ancelotti was in no mood to gamble on the fitness of his star strikers; both Anelka and Drogba were withdrawn after excellent performances up front. Gael Kakuta and Daniel Sturridge entered the fray and the duo had an immediate impact by nearly crafting the fourth; Kakuta's cross found Sturridge but the England under 21 international could only flick wide of the post.

Kalou then missed a sitter when a fortunate ricochet came his way, whilst Ramires was then guilty of passing up a glorious account to open his Chelsea account when his side-footed effort was blocked on the line by a covering defender. Sandwiched in between those two opportunities came the first goal conceded at Stamford Bridge by Petr Cech since March - a run of 956 minutes of exceptional goalkeeping was ended when Bazhenov slid home a late consolation.

Cech had no time to feel aggrieved at the goal, though he was keen to voice an argument of offside against the Spartak midfielder; something supported by video replays which suggested the Czech certainly had a claim. Chelsea went straight up the other end and pinball in the box saw Ivanovic smash home the fourth in emphatic style.

At the other end, Spartak's search for further consolation was declined when Cech made another excellent save - testament to his good form at the moment - but with a mere point needed from the final two group games needed to secure top spot, Chelsea are sitting very pretty right now.

___________________________________________________________________

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ferreira, Alex, Ivanovic, Cole; Ramires, Mikel (McEachran 68), Zhirkov; Kalou, Drogba (Sturridge 75), Anelka (Kakuta 75)

Spartak (4-5-1): Dykan; Ivanov, Pareja, Suchy, Makeev; Ibson, Sheshukov (Drincic 65); McGeady (Bazhenov 79, Alex (Kozlov 68), Kombarov; Welliton.

The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match was Chelsea's number 39, Nicolas Anelka

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:tophat:

Hats off to Spartak for the first half, they came did what that needed to do, but unlucky they weren't able to get the lead. But like always it was the mightier team that stood out, for me, we need to have a constituency to our play to both the first and second half in order to win the Champions League this season. In order to beat the bigger sides like Real, Barca, we need a 100% committed team who is on top of their game.

Hopefully Anelka can carry on his terrific form as of late to bang in more goals, while Drogba's finding his form again. I think this is going to be Anelka's year to overshadow Drogba, and i think we might benefit it by breaking records and meeting expectations.

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IMHO we can do just fine in Europe or against the real title challengers with this tactic.We just let the opposition get tired and control the game without even having much of the ball.Spartak didn't create anything of note and we defended brilliantly in the first half.Better teams will exploit our weaknesses but if we can keep defending as a unit as good as we do now few can score against us.

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