Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Zilina 1 Chelsea 4: Nicolas Anelka hits brace as Blues start Champions League charge with a stroll

By Matt Barlow reports from Zilina

Glory boys: Michael Essien and Nicolas Anelka celebrate in Chelsea's win

Far sterner tests lie ahead for Chelsea if they are to end their quest for European glory at Wembley in May, but this can go down as an emphatic first step.

There is a feeling within Stamford Bridge that the Champions League has been cruel to the club in recent years but Zilina could barely have proved more accommodating.

Perhaps it is a sign. The Slovak champions played with a charming freedom and naivety, a philosophy sure to win them friends but few points from their debut campaign among Europe’s elite.

They poured forward in numbers and worked Petr Cech, but left themselves badly exposed at the back. Park the bus? You could have driven one through their defence.

Ruthless Chelsea were never going to miss such a chance. On a ground where they played the first game of the Roman Abramovich era seven years ago, they took advantage without approaching top gear and left the field to polite applause from the impressed home crowd.

Michael Essien opened the scoring, Nicolas Anelka added two in four minutes before the break and Daniel Sturridge grabbed the fourth before Zilina’s consolation.

Having scored 142 goals last season, Carlo Ancelotti’s team now have 21 in five games this term.

In on the act: Daniel Sturridge scores Chelsea's fourth

More importantly, Ancelotti had the chance to rest players and coast through the second half, handing a debut to 17-year-old Josh McEachran, starlet of last season’s FA Youth Cup-winning team, and providing more game time for Gael Kakuta and Patrick van Aanholt, both 19.

McEachran, born in March 1993, is the first player born after the Champions League started in November ‘92 to take part in the competition.

Ancelotti said: ‘When it’s possible I would like to give the time to the young players to improve experience. Josh is a fantastic talent, he is very young and it is important to give him an opportunity.’

With Frank Lampard still not fit to return after groin surgery, John Terry was the only survivor in the team from Chelsea’s last appearance in Zilina, back in August 2003.

Since then, Terry has endured the heartbreak of four semi-final defeats plus the 2008 final, when he missed the penalty which would have won the European Cup for the first time in the club’s history.

‘Until we win that trophy I’m not going to die a happy man, that’s a fact,’ said Terry yesterday.

‘I will never give up hope of winning that trophy. I owe it to every Chelsea fan because of what happened in the final in Moscow. I still hold that as a big responsibility. I let the fans down by missing the penalty.’

Stroll: Nicolas Anelka scores Chelsea's second of the night

Perhaps suspecting the challenge from Zilina would be easily overcome, Ancelotti rested players last night. With Didier Drogba banned, Sturridge started ahead of Salomon Kalou, Yossi Benayoun came into Lampard’s midfield role and Yuri Zhirkov was in at leftback for Ashley Cole.

An early slip by Zhirkov energised the home crowd. The Russian dithered over a simple back-pass and was dispossessed by Emil Rilke. Alex and Terry charged across in a flash to smother the threat at the expense of a corner.

It gave the 12-1 outsiders a glimmer of hope but they were hopelessly soft at the back, as Essien proved when he spread a pass wide to Anelka and arrived in the box to sidefoot the return home. The contest was killed by Anelka’s double.

Party time: Nicolas Anelka celebrates with Florent Malouda

First, he collected a lofted pass from Florent Malouda, squeezed the accelerator to destroy defender Jozef Piacek for pace and rolled the ball effortlessly past goalkeeper Martin Dubravka. His second was simpler still. Terry leapt to head a corner from Malouda against the bar and it dropped for Anelka to prod over the line from a couple of yards.

Who needs Drogba? ‘The key was Anelka,’ said Ancelotti.

Star of the future: Josh McEachran made his Blues debut

‘He played a fantastic game. He created space, he had opportunities, he had an assist for the first and score two. He was the key for this game.’

Anelka celebrated his second with a handcuff celebration aimed at the French FA, who have suspended him for 18 games following his row at the World Cup. It was a big night Sturridge, desperate to make his mark after an unconvincing first season at the club.

He was frustrated to be given offside when he broke clear just before the interval but made no mistake when Benayoun released him early in the second half. He skipped around ‘keeper Dubravka with confidence, rolled the ball into the empty net and milked the applause of the fans.

‘I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a young boy,’ said Sturridge after his first Champions League goal. I’m delighted to get off the mark and hopefully there are many more to come.’

To their credit, Zilina responded again. Admir Vladavic drew a save from Cech and a mistake by the Chelsea goalkeeper gifted the Slovaks with a goal. Cech came from his line in an effort to punch clear a high cross from the right but missed and the ball struck Alex and Branislav Ivanovic and rebounded towards the goal line.

Tomas Oravec hammered it into the goal from an inch or two and Ancelotti flapped his arms angrily on the touchline.

‘I hope to watch my team play a fantastic game for 90 minutes,’ said Ancelotti.
‘But I was a player. I know sometimes there are difficult times on the pitch and the opponent wants to come back in the game.’

source: dailymail

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