Tuesday, 19 October 2010

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDrAM227EvEendofvid

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By MATT BARLOW

Net buster: Zhirkov's stunning strike opens the scoring for Chelsea


It was a night for the disposal of demons. Yuri Zhirkov, then Nicolas Anelka and finally John Terry. This time there would be no sob story.

Zhirkov returned to his native Russia to score a spectacular first goal as a Chelsea player and Anelka found the net in the arena where he fluffed the decisive penalty of the 2008 Champions League final against Manchester United.

Terry, reduced to tears after also missing from the spot here two years ago, produced a brilliant display in the heart of the back four to defy a second-half fightback from Spartak.

Anelka and Terry embraced at the end before the bare-chested captain disappeared down the tunnel with a thumbs-up to the Russian fans who applauded him warmly.

It was a night when you believe Carlo Ancelotti's team can yet be European champions, simply by sheer force of character.


Saint Nic: Anelka slides the ball home to double the Blues' lead


On an artificial pitch, in sub-zero temperatures, before a large and hostile crowd, in the absence of injured senior players including Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba, Chelsea seized control of Group F.

Ancelotti believes their ultimate revenge for Moscow 2008 will come one day in the form of the club's first European Cup win. Tougher tests lie ahead but perhaps it will be at Wembley in May.

'What happened two years ago doesn't matter anymore,' said Anelka. 'This shows we can go to tough places and win, even when we are not at full strength. Even with players missing, we have enough quality to play well and win.'

Despite Ancelotti's concerns about their fragile joints on the Luzhniki pitch, he started with Ashley Cole and Michael Essien, having seen his options limited by an injury to Ramires, picked up at Aston Villa on Saturday and aggravated on the eve of this game.

It meant Zhirkov came into midfield instead of the Brazilian, who flew home, and the manager was left with six outfield substitutes consisting of five teenagers and 20-year-old Patrick van Aanholt.


Yur the man: Zhirkov celebrates following his dramatic opening goal


The artificial surface played reasonably well, although it was clearly sticky underfoot at times and black clouds of rubber burst into the air when players planted their feet with any force.

Early in the game, Terry seemed to jar his knee in the pitch and spent a few minutes flexing his leg gingerly before soldiering on.

Accustomed to the pitch, Spartak enjoyed the better of the opening 20 minutes. Dmitri Kombarov sliced wildly off target when he ought to have tested Petr Cech, but the goalkeeper was alert to deny striker Welliton at his near post.

Slowly the visitors found their rhythm, Essien and Mikel took a stranglehold on midfield and Zhirkov made the breakthrough.

Nicolas Pareja's feeble clearance bounced conveniently towards the Russian, who arrived at Stamford Bridge from CSKA Moscow for £18million last year, and he lashed it back over Andriy Dykan from 25 yards.

Spartak boss Valeri Karpin had tried to sign Zhirkov in the summer, only to be flatly rejected.


Back home: Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich was attended the match at the Luzhniki Stadium

'This was an important moment for Yuri,' said Ancelotti. 'Coming back to play in Russia, he scored a fantastic goal and will be very happy. It was a very important goal. It opened up the game and, after that, it was easier for us to win.'
Anelka made it easier still two minutes before the break. The French striker had already been clean through only to be thwarted by Dykan but this time he curled a low shot into the bottom corner.


It was the opposite end of the stadium to his penalty miss in 2008 but he savoured his 50th goal for the club and his fourth in three European games this season in the absence of Drogba, who will be back from his fever to face Wolves on Saturday.

Karpin detected fear among his players when they came in 2-0 down at half-time, but former Celtic wideman Aiden McGeady lifted spirits briefly after the break. First he sped down the right to create a chance for Welliton to crash over, then the Irishman darted inside and unleashed a left-footer which took a deflection, spun above Cech and dropped narrowly over.

Cech unfurled himself twice to save confidently from Ibson and there were chances on the break for Chelsea as Spartak took risks.

Salomon Kalou, playing his first game after a month out injured, looked sluggish at first but was flying by the second half. He slid Anelka clear but Dykan saved again. Then he evaded three tackles on the right and crossed for Essien, who screwed his effort wide.

Ancelotti celebrated his 100th Champions League game as a manager with a win, but more satisfying than that will be the control this gives him in the group.

'We are not in the last 16 yet,' warned the Italian, but it is unfeasible to see the Premier League champions squandering this position. With nine points from three games, he can clinch qualification by beating Spartak again in a fortnight, then rest and rotate players as Chelsea coast through.


source :dailymail
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