Defeats, sackings, internal turmoil, and rumours about Carlo’s future and injuries wasn’t the best preparation for the Champions League tie against MSK Zilina.
But, here at Chelsea we have grown accustomed to all these things and the player‘s on the pitch showed that they have as well, as we overcame a 1-0 deficit to record a first win in 3 in all competitions and keep our 100% record intact in Europe this year.
Carlo Ancelotti had earlier indicated that he will give youngsters the chance against Zilina, as he looked to take advantage of the fact that we had already assured qualification to the next stage.
Josh McEachran, Kakuta, Bruma and Patrick van Aanholt all started as some of the senior player’s were rested; keeping in mind our hugely depleted squad this was a sensible decision. Ross Turnbull and Sturridge were the other two who came in, making it six changes in all from the side that started on the weekend.
Chelsea’s youngsters started the game in a composed manner and were not overawed by the occasion as we looked to get an early breakthrough, until Zilina hit us on the break through Bello, after his one-two with Jez put him through and his first-time strike went past Turnbull in goal, stunning the Stamford Bridge crowd.
This was only the second goal that the Slovakian side had scored in the competition; their first goal also came against Chelsea in Zilina.
After conceding, Chelsea kept on pressing for an equaliser, with Sturridge forcing a save from Dubravka, before Malouda went close with a header, but Zilina held on and we went into the break 1-0 down.
Salomon Kalou came on for Kakuta at half-time to provide some experience up front. He immediately made a difference as he cut in from the left and his ball found Sturridge on the far post to score. This was a rich reward for the young striker who was a having a lively game and kept up his impressive starts to goals ratio, his sixth in nine starts.
As the match progressed, Zilina kept sitting back and invited even more pressure. Chelsea went in searching for another goal, with Drogba and Ramires going close. Patrick Van Aanholt was also unlucky not to get a goal to his name when his sweetly struck shot hit the woodwork with the keeper beaten.
There was attack after attack on the Zilina goal but without that decisive second goal and it looked like we were going to be denied a win again, despite our domination on the game. However, this was not to be the case, as a well worked move on the left, saw Anelka deliver a delightful chip in the box to Drogba, whose header found the on-coming Malouda on the far post to slide it in.
This was an important win for the ‘Blues’, not because the eventual outcome would have had any bearing on our progress in Europe, but because it stops the bad run and lifts the gloomy air that had surrounded the club over the past couple of weeks.
We also had the luxury of watching an impressive display from the Chelsea youngsters on the night, with Van Aanholt and Sturridge shining through. A special mention is also reserved for the 17year old Josh McEachran who anchored the midfield with aplomb, before being replaced to a standing ovation, by Jacob Mellis, who was making his first Chelsea appearance.
Carlo Ancelotti was full of praise for the youngsters and after the game, he said; “It’s very positive, it was good experience for them”. “They played well and played for the team.
“McEachran played a very good second half and showed good personality, with good positioning and good composure.
“It was important for them to play in this kind of game to improve their experience.”
Chelsea (4-3-3): Turnbull; Ferreira, Bruma, Ivanovic, van Aanholt; Ramires, McEachran (Mellis 90+1), Malouda; Kakuta (Kalou h-t), Drogba, Sturridge (Anelka 74).
Scorers Sturridge 50, Malouda 85.
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