On a very chilly night in Moscow, Chelsea confirmed their place in the knock out stages of the Champions League. Jose Mourinho took a squad of 22 players to Russia. With the on looking Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich and former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, this was the first ever competitive game in Russia for Chelsea. 500 travelling fans went to Moscow to see the game and with a further 500 from the Russian Chelsea supporters club in Moscow; it made it a night to remember in the Lokomotiv Stadium.
Jose rested one or two players from the weekend game at West Brom, in came Glen Johnson at right-back for Paulo Ferreira and William Gallas, a second half substitute on Saturday, kept his place this evening for Wayne Bridge. Celestine Babyaro was on the bench with Bridge not even making the final cut for the squad tonight. Alexei Smertin had picked up a knock and couldn’t make the team in his home country, in his place came Scott Parker. Arjen Robben also a second half substitute on Saturday took Joe Cole’s place.
The game started with both teams passing and controlling the ball very well. In the first four minutes CSKA earned three corners in a row, however, all three corners didn’t cause the Chelsea back line any problems and all three corners were cleared, the early pressure though was from the home team. Chelsea settled and in the 10th minute a foul on Arjen Robben by Krasic was cleared. A few minutes later a through ball found Brazilian Vagner Love, but Cech easily picked it up. Chelsea were playing on the break and were soaking up any pressure without too many problems, the defence was as tight as ever and any home chances were being cleared by the back four who have only conceded four goals in 16 games this season.
Midway through the first half Chelsea were starting to dominate the game, Arjen Robben and Damien Duff along with Lampard were showing their class and on the 23rd minute an Arjen Robben shot from the right swerved past the left hand post with the keeper beaten. A minute later the goal came and what a corker it was. A ball headed on by Eidur Gudjohnsen found Damien Duff who flicked the ball to Arjen Robben who was also on the right, he cut inside the defender and with a low shot past the Russian goalkeeper Akinfeev, Chelsea went 0-1 up. It was a goal to treasure as both Duff and Robben showed that they can play in the same team and if they continue to play together, it will be a fascinating season for us the fans, and for Chelsea Football Club.
Ten minutes later Chelsea could have doubled their lead, another counter attack after a CSKA corner was played through to Eidur, he rounded the keeper but the ball was cleared. Damien Duff had been in space and could have slotted the ball away had Eidur seen him. The only real chance of the first half that tested Petr Cech in goal was from Vagner Love who turned and twisted just outside the area and shot low only for Cech to push the ball away. In the process it looked like Vagner Love had pulled his hamstring, but it only turned out to be a dead leg much to CSKA’s relief.
The second half started with Chelsea starting a bit slow, CSKA were having all the possession, and were after a very early goal to get them back on level terms. Two minutes into the half, they very nearly did get back onto level terms. A ball was played through to Zhirkov; he cut inside and into the penalty area with Glen Johnson bringing him down. Referee De Santis pointed to the spot straight away and it looked like we were going to be pegged back. Vagner Love placed the ball on the spot, turned, and run up to the ball; in true Beckham style he blasted the ball high over the bar. It was a fantastic let off for Chelsea, if CSKA had been able to get back into the game at that point we could have been under even greater pressure than we were during the first 25 minutes of the second half.
CSKA Moscow continued to dominate but with Chelsea’s rock solid defence it kept the home team at bay. The only real fright other than the penalty was Glen Johnson having some trouble down his side of the pitch, with Scott Parker and then Tiago who came on for Parker helping him out. Chelsea came back into the game around the 70th minute and took control of the game again. During that time other than the Tiago for Parker substitution, Mourinho had also bought on Ferreira for Gallas who had a neck muscle spasm and Kezman came on for Eidur Gudjohnsen. The only chance for us came in the 88th minute when Lampard struck the ball but Akinfeev got down to hold the ball.
So, the final whistle came with Chelsea winning 0-1. All in all it was a great performance especially seeing as not many teams go to Russia and come away with the victory. 12 points from 12 and as I write this Porto and PSG are drawing 0-0. If the game finishes as a draw, then Chelsea will have won Group H. Crack open the Vodka and put those Russian hats on, the Blues have taken over Red Square. Watch out Europe, we’re on our way to Istanbul!
CSKA Moscow: Akinfeev, Semberas, Ignashevic, Semak (Olic 70) Berezoutski, Gusev, Vagner Love (Kirichenko 82) Krasic, Zhirkov, Jarosik, Rahmic.
Subs not used: Mandrykin, Ferreyra, Laizans, Shershun.
Chelsea: Cech, Johnson, Terry, Carvalho, Gallas (Ferreira 54) Duff, Parker (Tiago 65) Lampard, Makelele, Robben, Gudjohnsen, (Kezman 68),
Subs not used: Cudicini, Babayaro, Cole, Huth.
Referee: Massimo De Santis (Italy)