An Almost Perfect Start

Another glut of goals from Carlo’s champions saw the blue machine role into Zilina, leave with all three points, without even breaking a sweat.

Showing the confidence in his side, the Italian again named his team early, something Capello could do well to learn from, and left both fans, pundits and Zilina coaches alike with no question as to who we’d play.

As it is with the intelligence of our squad and Carlo’s tactical nous, knowing which players will start is only half of the story, with many formations at his disposal, and players equally adept at filling more than one spot in the team.

With no Lampard, Drogba or Cole, and the latter’s replacement looking ring rusty in the opening exchanges where to their credit, Zilina pressed forwards as often as possible, there were some shaky moments.

It was in the 13th minute that Chelsea took the lead. Nicolas Anelka made a run towards the box and pulled the ball back to Michael Essien, making a Lampard-esqe run into the box to slot the ball home.

The advantage was soon doubled, with Anelka the scorer this time around after a lovely ball over the top from Malouda found Anelka in space for him to slot home, and then poke fun at the FFF with his handcuffs gesture.

A few minutes later and it was 3-0. A Malouda corner found Terry, whose header bounced off the bar and into Anelka’s path for the Frenchman to tap home from a yard to make it a brace for the night.

Half time came and went with no changes, but immediately afterwards the impressive Benayoun played the ball of the match through the Zilina defence to the onrushing Sturridge, who calmly hit the ball past the onrushing keeper to make it 4-0 and effectively end the contest.

To their credit, Zilina never gave up and continued to throw men forwards whenever the chance presented itself, and it was such pressure that led to a consolation goal for the home team. Cech flapped at a cross and the ball hit Ivanovic unaware, the ball was going towards the net for an OG but Oravec slid in at the last moment to ensure it went in, and he took the credit. 4-1.

Ancelotti made some changes and brought Kakuta on for Sturridge, and later brought on 17 year old Josh McEachran, the youngster set a new Champions League ‘first’, as he was born 1st March 93, he is the first player born after the CL started in Nov 92, to then play in the competition.

There were to be no more goals, but Zilina certainly went close. Chelsea closed up shop without ever really being stretched. Credit to Zilina for never giving up, and credit to Ancelotti for coming good on his promise to use the younger players.

After the match, the Italian said; “Every game in the Champions League is hard to play, we started very well in the first half, we played fantastic football, the second half was different. Zilina put more pressure on our defence but physically the back four had a good game.”

“The goal we conceded, we could have done better. Obviously Petr could do better but we conceded a lot of crosses in this game and we have to put more pressure on the wide side. For the 90 minutes we had a fantastic game. I was a player and I know sometimes you have difficulty on the pitch; especially when you have an opponent who wants to come back into the game.”

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry (c), Zhirkov; Essien, Mikel, Benayoun (McEachran 78); Sturridge (Kakuta 61), Anelka, Malouda (van Aanholt 87).

Goals Essien 13, Anelka 24, 28, Sturridge 48