By Kieran Lovelock
Chelsea 4-1 Spartak Moscow
As Tottenham announced themselves present at the Champions League party on Tuesday, last night saw Chelsea put in a performance against Spartak Moscow to remind their London neighbors whose boss.
Two goals from make shift centre back Branislav Ivanovic and one each from Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka gave Chelsea a 4-1 win over their closest opponents in group F to put them through to the knockout stages, and quite frankly it could have been even more emphatic.
The first half was somewhat of a drab affair with Spartak lining up predictably in a 4-5-1 formation with Aleksandr Sheshukov doing his best to protect the back four.
Despite Chelsea still breaking through the midfield Spartak managed to keep the home side at bay at the expense of any form of attacking substance with Welliton left up front on his own to fend off scraps. The Brazilan had scored 17 goals in 21 games before last night but had no chance as he was wasted throughout and the first half ended 0-0.
Thankfully the second period was totally different. Right from the kick off Chelsea had more pace, movement and fluidity about their play and they were soon rewarded when Nicolas Anelka finished sublimely from a tight angle after Ramires played a clever ball down the right channel.
This appeared to be the turning point and after the match Spartak manager Valeri Karpin admitted as much as his side appeared to drain in confidence following Anelka’s goal. “What disappointed me the most was that we lost all belief in ourselves in the second half. It is hard enough to come here and get a result when you are full of confidence never mind without it.”
As the match went on Chelsea grew momentum and the front three of Drogba, Anelka and Kalou were becoming more and more unplayable as the interchanged positions at will. Then in the 62nd minute Chelsea were awarded a penalty when full back Nicolas Pareja hacked down Drogba for the Ivorian to step up and score his first Champions League goal of the season from the spot.
For one short moment Spartak even had 12 men on the pitch when a fan decided to invade only to be brought down himself by stewards. But that couldn’t stop Chelsea who simply stamped their authority further on the group with a Branislav Ivanovic header on sixty six minutes from an inch perfect Drogba free kick.
Spartak did get one back through substitute Nikita Bazhenov on 86 minutes after Chelsea lost possession on their 18 yard line to send the away fans wild.
But their joy was short lived as former arch enemy and Lokomotiv Moscow defender Ivanovic got his second goal of the match and his third in two games. Once again Spartak couldn’t cope with Chelsea running at them as Saloman Kalou danced his way around three defenders inside the penalty area before his deflected shot eventually found Ivanovic and the Serbian smashed it into the bottom corner from six yards out.
Although this was an assured display from Chelsea questions must be asked of their strength in depth when it comes to whether or not they can win the Champions League this season.
The only subs manager Carlo Ancelotti could bring on were Daniel Sturridge, Joshua McEachran and Gael Kakuta. With these three having an average age of just 19 one must wonder if Chelsea truly do have the man power to compete against the best on all fronts this season.
In his press conference afterwards Ancelotti admitted that his squad was deep in quality but short on experience. “I trust all the young players in terms of ability. But experience wise they need some more games which is why I decided to bring them all on tonight.”
Last night may have been the perfect time and the perfect place to blood young players and as Chelsea stroll into the knockout stages of the Champions League they must take confidence from what they have done, but must equally be aware that things are about to get a lot tougher.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech, Ferreria, Alex, Invanovic, Cole; Ramires, Mikel (McEachran 66), Zhirkov,; Anelka (Kakuta 75), Drogba (Sturridge 75), Kalou.
Subs not used: Turnbull, Terry, va Aanholt, Bruman
Spartak Moscow: (4-5-1) Dykan; Makeev, Suchy, Ivanov, Pareja; McGeady (Bazhenov 78), Kombarov, Ibson, Sheshukov (Drincic 67), Alex (Kozlov 68); Williton.
Subs not used: Belenov, Sabitov, Khodyrev, Ananidze
Referee: Cuneyt Cakir (Turkey)
Man of the Match: Nicolas Anelka
Kieran was at Stamford Bridge to cover the game for 90Soccer