Champions League - Chelsea see off Leverkusen
Tue, 13 Sep 21:38:00 2011
Chelsea opened their Champions League Group E account with a 2-0 win against a determined Bayer Leverkusen side at Stamford Bridge.
Andre Villas-Boas's side were made to work hard for the spoils, and it took a superb finish from defender David Luiz to break the deadlock on 67 minutes.
Fernando Torres assisted both goals, but failed to add to his single goal for Chelsea, who were some way below their fluent best.
Playing in a front three along with Mata and Daniel Sturridge, it was Torres who looked the ponderous anachronism as he toiled in vain to score his second goal in nine months.
The Spaniard could have had a hat-trick early on. He first sent an ambitious hooked volley dipping just over, then had a goal controversially disallowed.
Torres had flicked Mata's cross weakly goalwards, and the offside Raul Meireles attempted to help it on with a backheel but missed his kick and the ball trickled into the corner of the net.
While Meireles may not have touched the ball, he tried to, and it was a clear and obvious case of interfering with play.
Had Meireles not been standing in an offside position trying to kick the ball, it would never have been a goal, so the only sensible decision was to rule it out.
Torres then saw a left-foot shot denied by stand-in goalkeeper Benrd Leno who performed admirably despite his unsettling eagerness to punch catchable balls.
Leverkusen had their chances, with a Simon Rolfes header disallowed, and Ballack shooting straight at Cech when through one-on-one, but they largely preferred to stick to the task of frustrating their hosts.
A flat performance was not helped by a below-capacity crowd that was out-sung throughout by the boisterous visiting support.
It fell to Sturridge, who kept his place after a superb goal against Sunderland on Saturday, to add some sparkle. The 22-year-old hit two purely-struck shots, one of which tested Leno with the other whistling wide.
Mata too provided a steady supply line from set pieces but could not unlock the Germans' defence.
In the end it fell to a defender, Luiz, to do the damage. He made a driving run forward and stayed upfield to receive a Torres lay-off and curl his shot beautifully into the far corner from the edge of the box and settle the Stamford Bridge nerves.
Mata had one effort brilliantly saved by Leno, who could do nothing about the second goal in stoppage time.
Torres broke through the left channel, thought about shooting but rightly chose to square for Mata, who tucked the ball into the empty net.
The scoreline flattered Chelsea, who once again won while playing below their best. Villas-Boas has work to do settling on his best XI and trying to extract the best out of Torres - but if his team is winning while he does so the Portuguese will be a happy man.
Chelsea boss happy with win