It a game which myself and many predicted would be a stroll for Chelsea, given MSK Zilina’s record in this seasons Champions League and what they have showed us in their previous 4 games, Chelsea were made to fight for their victory in this evening’s Champions League.
Having qualified after 4 games, it could easily be said this was a dead rubber for Chelsea. A rest for the first team was no doubt always in order, but a performance and result in this one was important, given Chelsea’s dip in form domestically of late.
After a poor start from both teams, it was the Slovakian visitors who opened the scoring on 19 minutes when Babatounde Bello was involved in a nice move that he coolly finished off, beyond Ross Turnbull in the Chelsea goal.
In the first half hour when Chelsea were playing poorly, Ross Turnbull didn’t appear to be filling his defence with any confidence, but there was little he could do about the goal.
That Chelsea defence consisted of Paulo Ferreira, Jeffrey Bruma, Branislav Ivanovic and Patrick van Aanholt. How much the two youngsters gained alongside the two experienced defenders was questionable from the action on the screen, although in truth we got to see little of them after the first 30 minutes. van Aanholt certainly looks to have been watching Ashley Cole play at left back with the amount of attacks he got involved with, even striking the post himself late in the second half.
After a shaky start, Josh McEachran looked confident on the ball and played a number of simple passes. This kind of performance won’t see him turn into the next Frank Lampard as he showed a lack of creativity in the final third. However, his composure at such a young age is a gift and his career is only on the way up.
At half time, Chelsea were 1-0 down and five competitive halves of football without a single goal since dismissing Ray Wilkins. Coincidence?
They were unfortunate on Saturday not to score against Birmingham City. A little unfortunate not to have equalised before half time as they had the ball in the Zilina penalty box on a number of occasions towards the end of the first half when they built in confidence after Zilina sat on their lead.
At that stage, it appeared to only be a matter of time before Chelsea equalised and eventually go on to win the game. With odds of above evens at half time, I happily backed the English champions to win a club record 5 opening Champions League group game matches.
Salomon Kalou came on for the disappointing Gael Kakuta after 45 minutes and looked threatening. Daniel Sturridge was Chelsea’s most lively player in the first half and continued that throughout the second, before being substituted for Nicolas Anelka late on. The experienced Florent Malouda was happy to lead by example. All positives for this Chelsea team, but can they pick up 3 points at Newcastle on Sunday?
It was Daniel Sturridge who equalised for Chelsea early in the second half, showing his strikers instinct by gambling on a cross that could have been cut out, before neatly finishing at the far stick. His final product has come into question, but with a longer run in the first team he can come good. He was lively and showed unselfishness in the second half by trying to play in Didier Drogba several times in the second half when he could so easily have taken a shot on himself. That may have been the rest of a Drogba stare in the first half when Sturridge did selfishly take on a shot instead of passing to Chelsea’s hitman!
After Anelka’s introduction, it was his chip into the area that Drogba knocked down for Malouda to slide home a late winner. The three experienced attacking players combined well as Chelsea came away with a deserved victory.
That was two games in a row I have won bets above evens on Chelsea, following their loss at Birmingham on Saturday. A rarity.
With that defeat saw Chelsea’s odds climb up to 5/4. A tougher test of how big a part tonight’s result changes this season will come on Sunday when they travel to a Newcastle side who have thrashed Sunderland and beat Arsenal in recent games (as well as being thrashed by Bolton last weekend).