Champions League - Chelsea win in Slovakia

Eurosport - Wed, 15 Sep 21:32:00 2010

An under-strength Chelsea side opened up their Champions League campaign with a 4-1 Group F win at MSK Zilina, although boss Carlo Ancelotti will not be happy with everything he saw in Slovakia.

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Nicolas Anelka’s brace intersected goals from Michael Essien and - on his Champions League debut - Daniel Sturridge, to put the Premier League champions 4-0 up at the Pod Dubnon.

But Zilina pulled one back after a howler from Petr Cech, Tomas Oravec finishing after the Chelsea keeper flapped at a cross, with the Czech Republic international’s handling and decision making a worry on several occasions.

Indeed, had the home side showed more composure in front of goal they could have got something from the game, having created more chances than Chelsea and, by the end, kept almost as much possession.

Chelsea have now scored 21 goals and conceded two in their five Premier League and European games this season, although they will play far better sides than they have faced so far.

Zilina - unbeaten in their domestic league - started with excitement, pressuring Chelsea early on with a succession of throws and corners from the right without truly testing Cech.

Chelsea soon grew into the game though, with Sturridge and Florent Malouda finding space on their respective flanks but failing with the final ball on two separate occasions.

The Blues took the lead midway through the first half when Essien drilled a low shot past Martin Dubravka after racing on to Anelka’s cut back having started the move with a through-ball to the Frenchman.

The Ghana midfielder started the move by threading Anelka in, with Malouda involved too, stepping over his compatriot's assist to allow Essien the freedom of the box.

Zilina went close twice soon afterwards.

On the quarter hour Robert Jez struck a curling low a free-kick through a poor Chelsea wall, with Cech unsighted as he almost replicated Robert Green’s mistake in the World Cup, spilling a straightforward take: unlike Green, he got to the rebound.

Five minutes later former Chelsea reserve striker Momodou Ceesay put a right-wing cross on to the head of Babatounde Bello, but the delivery lacked pace and the subsequent downward header lacked the power to beat Cech.

That was the end of Zilina’s game though as, within a minute, it was 2-0.

Anelka raced on to a John Obi Mikel pass to drill a low finish under Dubravka, who possibly should have done better.

The game was out of sight before the half hour as Anelka grabbed his second of the night, a simple tap-in after John Terry was give too much space to head Malouda’s corner off the underside of the bar.

Chelsea should have got a fourth seven minutes before the break, with Malouda denied by a diving block from Mario Pecalka, while the hosts had plenty of chances but were unable to finish them off.

Indeed, Pavel Hapal’s side had two brilliant chances just before the break, with Cech making a smart save from a long-range strike by Bosnia winger Admir Vladavic and - with the loose ball still alive - Ceesay putting a free header wide when he should have buried it.

Sturridge found his right-wing role difficult in the first half as much of Chelsea’s play came through the left.

So at the start of the second he swapped flanks and promptly opened his Champions League account, rounding the keeper and sliding a low, left-foot finish from an angle after good work from Yossi Benayoun.

Zilina had their chances as Vladavic stung Cech’s palms while Bello was denied by an accidental block from team-mate Oravec.

And they pulled one back, Oravec prodding over the line after the increasingly flaky Cech flapped atrociously at a cross, the ball ricocheting off Branislav Ivanovic and trickling towards the empty net before Zilina’s top scorer poached the goal.

Zilina continued to pressurise Chelsea, who appeared to take their foot off the gas, losing rhythm in their passing and constantly looking unsure with the high ball.

The back four was not totally makeshift: Yuri Zhirkov was in for Ashley Cole, but otherwise it was first choice and some of the responsibility lay with Cech, who looked nervous and agitated when asked to do anything with his hands.

His defenders did not help much either.

Vladavic hit another sweet strike just wide after being allowed by Ivanovic to cut inside from the left, while substitute Tomas Majtan should have done better when Oravec held the ball up for him in the box: leaning back, the Slovakia U21 striker fired wildly over.

The hosts had made their point and the latter stages faded into obscurity.

There was a senior debut for Chelsea youth team player Josh McEachran, who was unluckily flagged offside when he seemed to have timed his run on to Zhirkov’s pass, while fellow youngster Gael Kakuta had a goal chalked off with Anelka offside in the build-up.

Otherwise there was little further action of note as Chelsea moved to the top of a group that contains Spartak Moscow and Marseille, with the Russians second after snatching a late win in France.

Reda Maher / Eurosport

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