Champions League - Ivanovic downs Spartak

Wed, 03 Nov 21:30:00 2010

Chelsea qualified for the knockout stages of the Champions League with an emphatic 4-1 win over Spartak Moscow at Stamford Bridge.

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Two goals from Branislav Ivanovic, and a goal apiece from Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba gave Carlo Ancelotti's side a crushing, and thoroughly deserved, three points, maintaining their status as runaway leaders of Group F.

With one eye on the trip to Anfield on Sunday, coach Ancelotti rested John Terry and Michael Essien, and handed starts to Paula Ferreira and Ramires, with Salomon Kalou replacing the injured Florent Malouda in attack.

It was a night that called for professionalism, but Ancelotti's changes didn't pay off straight away, as Aiden McGeady and Alex got on top of a jaded Chelsea midfield that started slowly. A drab first half ensued.

Anelka had the first chance of note for either side, when his quick feet allowed him to cut in from the right and sent a sumptuous curler narrowly wide of the far post from the edge of the box.

Chelsea shaded the first period, but Spartak's retention of possession and success in restricting the influence of Chelsea's creative midfielders, made the Premier League champions' approach play appear laboured.

McGeady missed Spartak's best chance of the half when he found space in the box from Yevgeni Makeev's square pass. McGeady, shifting the ball onto his left foot, tried to curl the ball inside the far post but it was always going wide.

For all of Spartak's organisation in defence, they were predictable and ponderous in attack, and the only other chances they could muster were Dmitri Kombarov's numerous Hollywood shots from 30, 35 and then 40 yards that never worried Cech.

The midfield trio of Ramires, Yuri Zhirkov and John Obi Mikel were not as dominant of the midfield in the first period as Ancelotti has come to expect when it is marshalled by Michael Essien.

But Ramires settled into his role as the second half unfolded, showing glimpses of the potential that first marked him out as a transfer target. Indeed, he came close to reaching the same levels he has reached for Brazil, and in numerous illuminating performances at Benfica's Stadium of Light.

His movement and composure served Chelsea well as they went about their business of seeing off supremely inferior opposition.

But it was a moment of inspiration from a seasoned Champions League campaigner that gave Chelsea their lead four minutes after the restart.

Anelka received a perfectly weighted through ball from Kalou, before expertly slotting the ball home from a tight angle beyond the on-rushing Andriy Dikan.

It was a lovely finish by the Frenchman, showing that in that inside right position he is deadly - as he has now proved in successive games.

It wasn't long before an uphill struggle for Spartak became effectively impossible, when Drogba was taken down in the box by Makeev.

Drogba, captain for the night, made no mistake from the spot, draining any lingering confidence from the veins of Spartak Moscow.

Barely four minutes later, Ivanovic emerged to stamp his unmistakeable mark on the game. Taking advantage of slack marking, the Serbian rose to meet Drogba's whipped free kick from the right, ending the game as a genuine contest.

Spartak gave Chelsea reason to think four minutes from time, when they outnumbered their hosts with an intelligent counter-attack.

It was as incisive and purposeful as Spartak had been in either of the two games between the sides, and was born only out of an opportunistic attempt to restore pride.

Morals Welliton, Spartak's lone striker, found himself in space inside the box as Chelsea's napping defence found themselves on the back foot. Welliton dragged his shot, but substitute Nikita Bazhenov arrived late to slides in from close range to make it 3-1.

There was a hint of offside but Bazhenov was just about level as he made his move.

Ramires, Kalou and substitute Daniel Sturridge all had chances to steal a fourth but, as injury time played out, it was Chelsea's goal hungry centre-back Ivanovic who popped up to bag his third goal in two games.

Sturridge's presence created hesitation in the Spartak box and Ivanovic's opportunism served him well again as he maintained his advanced position to swivel and steer a powerful strike past Dikan.

The win means Chelsea progress to the knockout stages and, just as valuably, Ancelotti has earned the luxury of being able to rest key players to ensure Chelsea consolidate their position at the summit of the Premier League.

Michael Da Silva / Eurosport

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