MSK ZILINA 1
Essien 13, Anelka 24, 28, Sturridge 48
MSK Zilina crumbled as Chelsea continued their rampant start to the season, dismantling their hosts in a four goal mauling.
Chelsea have smashed six goals past their ill-fated opponents twice already in this year’s domestic campaign, but this outing was by far the most comfortable for the London giants. With ticket prices soaring to seven times their normal value, the Blues would have been wary of a hostile environment and home resistance upon kick-off, and taking the sting out of a potentially fiesty clash was high on the agenda.
Carlo Ancelotti paid great respect to the Slovakian champions by fielding a next to full strength team. Chelsea lined up in their usual fashion with Daniel Sturridge given a rare start ahead of the suspended Didier Drogba whilst Yossi Benayoun replaced the sidelined Frank Lampard. Ashley Cole was the only notable absence at left-back but with Yuri Zhirkov deputising for the England international, the Blues’ intentions were apparent.
It took just 13 minutes for those intentions to materialise as Florent Malouda dummied a Nicolas Anelka cut-back for Michael Essien to smash home from 18-yards. The strike was the Ghanaian’s third in two games as Chelsea continue to notch goals left, right and centre all without the talismanic Lampard.
A four minute brace from Anelka ended the game as a contest before half-time and Zilina’s early optimism and adrenaline soon petered out as Chelsea slipped into cruise control. Anelka burst through the left channel and converted courtesy of some shambolic goalkeeping and if the Frenchman’s first had a hint of luck about it, then the second was the definition of fortune.
John Terry – shaking off a rib injury to lead his club onto the ground where they played their first Champions League game under Roman Abramovich seven years ago – headed a Malouda corner onto the bar only for the attempt to fall at Anelka’s feet for a point-blank tap in. The Chelsea captain is the only survivor of the qualifying stage clash all those years ago but it was new-boy Benayoun and fellow wide-man Malouda that stole the limelight in a rain sodden night in Slovakia.
Malouda provided the assist for both of his countryman’s strikes whilst Benayoun provided fluidity and creativity in the middle of the park also managing to thread a perfectly weighted pass through for Sturridge to convert on his Champions League debut. Many of the Chelsea faithful questioned the decision to let Joe Cole leave Stamford Bridge – especially when his move to fierce rivals Liverpool was eventually confirmed – but it seems that Benayoun is more than capable of reproducing the cutting edge that typified Cole’s time at the club.
Once Chelsea had taken a vice-like grip on proceedings, Ancelotti sent on Gael Kakuta and Patrick van Aanholt as the youngsters continue their integration into the first time and there was a Champions League bow for Josh McEachran while the Blues persist with their new youth policy.
Petr Cech temporarily riled the home crowd when his spill allowed Tomas Oravec to grab an unforgettable goal against the English powerhouse, but his efforts remained little more than a consolation for the whipping boys of Group F. Cech’s blunder encouraged and invited the Slovakians to force the issue in the latter stages, but despite clear moments of fragility, Ancelotti’s side had no problem disposing of the minnows and blooding some young talent in the process.
2 Ivanovic – 26 Terry – 33 Alex – 18 Zhirkov
5 Essien – 12 Mikel – 10 Benayoun
23 Sturridge – 39 Anelka – 15 Malouda
61 – 44 Kakuta on for 23 Sturridge
79 – 45 McEachran on for 10 Benayoun
88 – 38 van Aanholt on for 15 Malouda