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Anelka double inspires improved Chelsea


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FC Copenhagen 0-2 Chelsea

UEFA Champions League - Tuesday 22 February 2011 - Parken Stadium


Nicolas Anelka scored twice as Chelsea cruised to a comfortable Champions League victory over FC Copenhagen to all but book their place in the quarter finals of the competition.

In contrast to Saturday's dismal FA Cup defeat at the hands of Everton, where Anelka missed a crucial spot kick in a dramatic penalty shoot-out, it was the Frenchman who inspired a much-improved Chelsea to victory against their Danish opponents - first finding the net after capitalising on a mistake by former Blues winger Jesper Gronkjaer, before doubling his tally with aplomb from a delightful Frank Lampard pass.

The result will no doubt please Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti, who has come under increasing scrutiny as a result of Chelsea's poor recent form, but a first win in four games ensures that Chelsea can already begin to plan ahead to their next tie in the competition. Copenhagen were nothing more than a disappointment for a side that has amassed an incredible 19 point lead at the top of the Superliga and held Barcelona to a very credible 1-1 draw at the Parken Stadium during the group stage.

Chelsea were more professional than brilliant; more functional than fantastic, but the composure that Ancelotti's under-fire charges demonstrated in front of a vociferous home support that was complimented by an away following from England in fine voice, will offer much encouragement to a side still struggling to even qualify for next season's competition - and Blues fans will be especially delighted after news filtered through of a 3-1 loss for Tottenham at Bloomfield Road on the domestic front.

And a brace for Anelka, who was excellent throughout in his natural centre-forward position, coupled with a promising performance by new signing Fernando Torres will surely herald the start of a new partnership at Stamford Bridge as Ancelotti opted to shuffle a squad strengthened by the return of a number of influential figures; not least the brilliant Jose Bosingwa. Torres demonstrated a great understanding with his strike partner as his movement created problems for the lacklustre hosts, whilst the improving performances of Michael Essien and Frank Lampard will also please the Chelsea coach.

A new skewed 4-4-2 system was adopted, with Ramires and Malouda operating infield, allowing both Bosingwa and Ashley Cole the room to offer natural width on either flank. That width saw Chelsea outdo their opponents on a number of fronts, as their mentally-sharper play underlined the fact that their hosts had not played a competitive match since early December. Copenhagen sporadically posed something resembling a threat, but they will no doubt feel aggrieved that they have missed a chance to heap further misery on Chelsea following Saturday's FA Cup defeat - though a dominant performance played out at times at walking pace vindicated Ancelotti's pre-game confidence in his players.

The game itself saw Chelsea dominate matters without truly imposing themselves on the game. There was certainly potential for an even greater margin of victory, but a first away win in the UEFA Champions League knock-out rounds since a 3-1 win over Liverpool at Anfield in April 2009 sees the Blues effectively through to the next round considering their incredible home form in the competition.

The first chance of the game came the way of Florent Malouda, who wildly shot over after good play by Torres, before the Spaniard himself was left to rue a poor touch inside the area as he failed to react to a miss-hit Ramires effort from the edge of the area. Nicolas Anelka then drove wide of the target as Chelsea began the game by far the better team.

Jesper Gronkjaer can be accredited as the scorer of the goal that launched Chelsea's ascendency into a title-winning juggernaut, but through a cruel twist of irony, signs of his former ties to the Stamford Bridge club were clear to see as he inadvertently set up the opening goal; his wayward pass intercepted by Anelka, who ruthlessly dispatched the ball into the corner of the net.

It was a goal that seemed to settle down Chelsea and deflate the opposition, as the previously-bouncing Parken Stadium was muted but for the contingent of travelling Blues supporters. Chelsea continued to press and might have doubled their lead, as chances for Torres, Anelka and Ramires were passed up, but instead they opted to play the game at a comfortable pace; dominating proceedings with crisp, sharp interchanges but without truly putting their opponents into a rearguard action.

The second half followed an identical pattern to the first; Copenhagen enjoyed some early possession but were undone by a lack of match practice as their physical condition betrayed them. Nevertheless, they did demonstrate some attacking intent when substitute Martin Vingaard forced Petr Cech into his first meaningful contribution as he dealt with the Dane's low drive from distance.

Suddenly, the Copenhagen supporters began to show signs of renewed belief and the atmosphere inside the intimidating amphitheatre was duly cranked up, but Chelsea - impressively undaunted considering the excellent home record boasted by the Danish side - were only encouraged to attack. Anelka effectively killed off the game - and potentially the tie - with an excellent second goal as the Blues doubled their lead; Michael Essien crucially stopped a Copenhagen attack in its tracks before Lampard played a brilliant reverse pass into Anelka's feet.

The Frenchman finished with tremendous gusto to take his season's tally in the competition to seven goals in six Champions League appearances, but it was to be Fernando Torres who would take centre stage from here on in. First he demonstrated great strength to set up Lampard, who fired well wide, before he came tantalisingly close to his first Chelsea goal; forcing a superb save out of home goalkeeper Wiland with a low left-footed effort.

He then saw another effort cleared off the line moments later and his overall build-up play saw him combine well with both Anelka and Frank Lampard; and when Anelka was replaced by a disgruntled Didier Drogba, Torres' link-up play did not desert him - as he continued to demonstrate an understanding with his attacking colleagues.

The Spaniard was replaced deep into stoppage time and Chelsea threatened a third goal when first Essien shot wide and then Yury Zhirkov's drive was blocked, as Ancelotti's side completed an entirely professional and impressive performance that sees them have one foot in the next round of the Champions League.

Chelsea fans should keep themselves grounded, however - the shroud of doom and gloom that has enveloped Stamford Bridge over recent weeks will not have been lifted by a solitary victory, but an overall performance that was a marked improvement on Saturday's woeful showing will do wonders for the confidence of the players and supporters alike. A two-goal lead will offer a degree of comfort in the second leg, but with far greater challenges to come in this competition - and next week's crunch game with Manchester United to boot - this 'bad moment' will not truly have passed until a Champions League berth can be secured for next season.


Copenhagen (4-3-1-2): Wiland; Pospech, Zanka, Antonsson, Wednt (P Bengtsson 75); Bolanos, Kvist, Claudemirm Gronkjaer (Zohore 87); Santin (Vingaard 45), N'Doye.

Chelsea (4-4-2): Cech; Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry ©, Cole; Essien, Ramires, Lampard, Malouda (Zhirkov 84); Anelka (Drogba 73), Torres (Kalou 90+2).

The TalkChelsea.net man of the match was Chelsea's number 39, Nicolas Anelka.

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liked the link up play between nik and Torres ...thought Malouda was excellent 1st half,,, Frank better today more involved . Cech is back to his best..

They were poor BUT we made them look worse ... A good night's work.

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Good read, 1 thing is obv now, Torres, Anelka and Drogba are best in the central striker role, so 4-4-2 is the way to go. Anelka looked so beastly today, made me fall in love with him after his sexy finishes, almost forgot about his penalty kick...almost.

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Nicely written.

Some of our bookings were pointless definitely, I mean yellow cards for Malouda and Terry didn't have to happen at all. Right now there is no need to talk about it but you never know in the future. Being suspended because of mistakes like this is not good. Anyway, it really nice to see a player in our shirt who fancies himself and is confident in going 1vs1 or 1vs2, just like Nando did. Although he didn't score, this was exactly something we had been desperately missing.

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