All eyes were once again on Fernando Torres, who was making his Champions League debut for Chelsea in Copenhagen, but it was his strike-partner Nicolas Anelka who grabbed the headlines after netting both of Chelsea’s goals in a convincing 2-0 win over the Danish champions.
The sub-zero temperature night saw Chelsea put a foot into the quarter-finals of the Champions League, and also saw a promising display by record-signing Torres. Although he was unable to break his Chelsea scoring duck, the Spaniard looked bright and it certainly looks as though the goals will start flowing for him soon.
There has been much talk of whether Torres and Didier Drogba can play in the same team together, and the answer still appears to be negative. The Ivorian will have been disappointed to have again been dropped to the bench but, in all fairness, his recent performances have not been brilliant, and this trend continued in the below-freezing Danish capital.
Of interest on the opposing side’s line-up was former Chelsea man Jesper Gronkjaer starting on the left-wing in Copenhagen’s tried and tested 4-4-2 formation. Chelsea similarly, and perhaps surprisingly, started with the same formation as their rivals. Ramires was playing on the right-side of the midfield, Florent Malouda on the left, whilst Michael Essien and Frank Lampard made up the two central positions.
After an end-to-end start, with both teams were looking enthused by the occasion, it was Chelsea who took the lead on 17 minutes. Gronkjaer’s attempted pass was intercepted by Anelka who easily got the ball to the mid-right edge of the area before unleashing a smart shot on goal. Copenhagen’s goalkeeper Johan Wiland will have been disappointed not to have stopped the shot but Chelsea didn’t mind – a perfect start was just what Ancelotti’s men needed after a difficult couple of weeks.
To Copenhagen’s credit, the goal did not dampen their spirits and they continued to attack Chelsea’s half. Unfortunately for the Danish champions, who have not played an official match since the last game of their Champions League group stage in December, Chelsea were also playing extremely well. Torres looked sharper and sharper throughout the half and was linking particularly well with both Malouda and Anelka.
After the last few minutes of the first half were played in a subdued fashion, Copenhagen came back into the second half with a lot of grit and determination. Substitute Martin Vingaard made an instant impression and gave Petr Cech his first real test within a minute of coming on at half-time; the Dane’s obviously felt it was all still to play for in spite of Chelsea’s crucial away goal.
Despite the home-side’s best efforts, Chelsea absorbed the pressure well and, nine minutes into the half, dealt a sucker-punch against the run of play. Essien fed Lampard who hit a perfectly weighted ball to Anelka who superbly finished to get his, and Chelsea’s, second goal of the game.
With Anelka keen to complete a hat-trick and Torres desperate to get off the mark for Chelsea in his first Champions League game for 14 months, it looked as though the Blues may run away with the game to firmly book their place in the quarter-final, but it wasn’t to be.
Ancelotti brought Drogba on for double-goal-scorer Anelka with just over 15 minutes to go, but to his dismay, the pair failed to link up well again. Torres looked impressive until the very end, when he was substituted for Salomon Kalou in injury time, and was unlucky not to score. Drogba meanwhile also managed to get a couple of shots away, but the pair never really showed signs of combining well.
Incorporating Drogba into a side which must necessarily be built around £50 million Torres who, at the age of 26, surely holds to future for Chelsea, is proving an issue. This will clearly still be a thorn in Ancelotti’s side, but he must afford himself a smile after this performance. It’s too soon to say that Chelsea’s season is turning around, all is certainly not perfect: still outside of the Premier League top-four; still six games away from winning the elusive Champions; and Torres still hasn’t scored (although it has only been three games). Although there are issues which need to still be addressed, this performance and result, combined with Tottenham’s 3-1 defeat to Blackpool in the Premier League, means that this was one of the best night’s for Chelsea in quite a long time.