Nicolas Anelka produced a magnificent display as the lead striker, scoring two goals and assisting a third, as Chelsea cruised to a 4-1 victory over MSK Zilina in matchday one of this year’s Champions League. Michael Essien scored the first for the Blues, with Daniel Sturridge notching his first career goal in the Champions League, while Tomas Oravec scored a late consolation for the hosts.
Just as last season, Chelsea were without the services of their talismanic striker, Didier Drogba, who was serving the first match of a two-match ban for his sending off in last year’s quarter-final against Inter. Ancelotti elected to start Anelka up front on his own and handed Sturridge his first start of the season. Yossi Benayoun also made his full debut in place of the injured Frank Lampard, with Ramires dropping to the bench and Yuri Zhirkov also made his first start as Ashley Cole was rested.
Zilina took advantage of the new starters finding their footing and perhaps the home support by taking the game to Chelsea in the opening minutes. The hosts were expected to defend and counter, but they attacked with vigor and had the better possession for the opening ten minutes.
Things changed in the 12th minute, as the Blues would take advantage of their opponents open approach and it was Essien that struck the first blow. A beautiful run through the center by Anelka was found by a Benayoun pass, and the striker found the late run of Essien for a simple finish that completely wrong footed Martin Dubravka, the Zilina goalkeeper.
The Slovakian side refused to be deterred and nearly leveled the score two minutes later when Robert Jez challenged Petr Cech with a free kick that the Chelsea keeper spilled, but was able to collect on the second attempt.
Moments later, Zilina were denied another equaliser by Cech as Bello Babatounde rose to meet a beautiful cross from Momodou Ceesay, but Bello could not generate enough power and the Czech international saved comfortably.
Anelka made the hosts pay for their profligacy in front of goal two minutes later as a French connection was made. Florent Malouda played a ball over the top that found Anelka in acres of space as he slotted the ball under the keeper for the Chelsea second.
Malouda and Anelka again linked up for the Chelsea third when John Terry headed Malouda’s corner onto the crossbar and the rebound fell to Anelka to poke in from two yards out. Malouda nearly got a fourth before the break but Mario Pecalka blocked his shot after Zhirkov pulled the ball back to him from the byline.
Sturridge completed the rout just minutes into the second half as Benayoun’s through ball caught the entire Zilina defence out of position, and Sturridge latched onto the pass before rounding the keeper and sliding into the net. His goal celebration, however, left a lot to be desired.
Complacency was the only opponent to the Blues and it struck in the 55th minute. Jez swung over a cross that Petr Cech could only get a fingertip to and the ball deflected towards the goal off Branislav Ivanovic for Oravec to tap in.
It proved just to be a consolation and Ancelotti used this opportunity to introduce his youngsters. Gael Kakuta, Josh McEachran, and Patrick van Aanholt were all introduced as substitutes and the Blues continued to cruise without having to reach top gear.