Eden Hazard scored twice and Didier Drogba scored his first goal since rejoining as Chelsea easily swept aside NK Maribor 6-0, posting their biggest ever Champions League win in the process.
Jose Mourinho showed a fair deal of respect to the Slovenian champions – who knocked out Celtic to reach this stage of the competition – with a line-up that was not far away from being the strongest available.
Petr Cech started in goal for the second time this season, while Kurt Zouma and Filipe Luis started in defence ahead of the rested Gary Cahill and the domestically suspended Cesar Azpilicueta, both of whom sat on the bench. Cesc Fabregas and Nemanja Matic anchored the midfield, while Willian and Eden Hazard occupied the wide positions, with Oscar behind Loic Remy. The French international replaced the injured Diego Costa.
The Blues’ justified their position as heavy odds-on favourites with a professional and dedicated performance which would have pleased the fans and Mourinho alike, the only blight on a convincing nights work was a injury to Loic Remy leaving us with Didier Drogba as our only senior striking option.
Incidentally, it was in the scoring of our first goal in which Loic Remy injured himself. After freeing himself just outside the box, the Frenchman swept the ball away past Jasmin Handanovic in the Maribor goal. In the process of scoring Remy seemingly injured his groin and much to his chagrin had to come off after 16 minutes for Drogba. Ten minutes later Chelsea doubled their lead as Remy’s replacement stepped up the penalty spot after a almost comedic handball from Ales Mertelj and dispatched with ease, and with that Drogba had his first goal since his return to the club in the summer.
It was 3-0 by the half hour as a sweeping counter attack, started by Drogba clearing a corner to Hazard who passed to Fabregas and John Terry running the length of the pitch to finish in a style much more akin to the man who swatted the corner away.
There were chances during the first half for the Slovenian champions however. Damjan Bohar missed a header while Agim Ibraimi had a decent effort saved by Cech in goal, who barring those efforts, had little to do.
Eight minutes into the second half and Chelsea made it four. Filipe Luis’ cross was overhit and found Eden Hazard on the other side of the pitch. The Belgian’s ball back into hit the heels of Mitja Vilar and past the keeper to put the game beyond our visitors.
However, there was one glorious opportunity for Maribor to at least score, as a penalty conceded by Matic could only be hit against the post by Ibraimi.
There were opportunities for some of the younger members of the squad to stake a claim, as Nathan Ake featured for the first time since the League Cup game against Bolton, and 17-year-old academy striker and England youth international Dominic Solanke made his debut, while becoming the club’s youngest-ever European player in the process.
Eden Hazard resumed spot-kick duties and slotted in for 5-0 after Marko Suler fouled Branislav Ivanovic, and would score again in what a was a phenomenal half for the Belgian winger to complete the 6-0 rout. Ake spotted Hazard and played in a delightful pass which was controlled equally well and hammered it away.
While Remy’s injury is the obvious caveat from tonight’s display, Mourinho will hopefully take heart from an accomplished display from the evergreen Drogba who managed 75 minutes well, and the young Solanke showed bags of the potential which has many Blues fans brimming with positivity after his displays for the youth sides this season and last. Nathan Ake also had a solid half-hour cameo, and Kurt Zouma looked rarely flustered at centre-back. All in all, it was a fantastic display from our boys, who look in great shape to go deep into the knockout stages, and maybe even recreate that night in Munich.