Chelsea not only won the match, they won the group, they were tactically brilliant, Drogba was sensational and John Terry was imperious. Wow! Jose Mourinho would have been proud of a display of teamwork, power, desire and clinical finishing.
Chelsea went in to this match needing to win or at least keep a clean sheet. The desire of Drogba was questionable before last night; however his group huddle, alongside JT, prior to kick off, showed that he was really up for the battle. I hold my hands up and admit I was sceptical. Drogba proved that he is still a major threat, albeit he tired after an hour, but we are a better team with him as our spearhead.
Chelsea got off to the best possible start. Daniel Sturridge, a constant thorn in the visiting defence, cut in from the left and floated a ball to the far post to Mata. Mata controlled instantly and laid the ball back to Drogba; he shimmied to go right, cut back on his left and fired a shot goal bound. The Valencia keeper should have done better, but he only managed to palm the ball in to the net. The Bridge sighed with collective relief.
We were then witnessing a transformation in Chelsea tactics. I have written, previously, about our high line and vulnerability to pace. AVB got this spot on. Gone was the high line, gone was Ashley Cole marauding down the left, gone was our vulnerability, only to be replaced with a back four marshalled superbly by JT, protected by a midfield three, with young Spaniard Oriel Romeu growing from the ashes of the phoenix, that was Claude Makelele.
Chelsea went further ahead in the 22nd minute. Drogba wrestled free in midfield and broke with pace. Ramires made a fantastic cross field run and Drogba tried to play him in. The pass was not ideal but Ramires showed strength and guile to get beyond the last defender and beat the keeper at his near post. Game over!
The Bridge was rocking! Lampard was celebrating with his team mates in the dug out and AVB was leaping with….relief! The Chelsea manager has silenced his critics, for now, but a sterner test awaits on Monday night against the PL leaders. That is for another day, let the Portuguese have his moment.
The second half was exactly the same. Valencia had plenty of possession but could not break down the superb home defence. Mata did his defensive duties and helped Cole minimise the threat from the Valencia right. Ivanovic is a bull of a man and kept the visitors quiet on the left. Terry and, the very comfortable, Luiz controlled the centre. There was no way through. Brilliant, brilliant Chelsea! Drogba then topped his superb performance with a second, from a Mata through ball. Again Drogba shimmied to go left but beat the keeper with a flick to his right. Brilliant, brilliant Chelsea!
The final whistle came with the news that Genk had held Bayer and Chelsea had topped their group. We now avoid the real Spanish armada in the form of Real and Barcelona in the next knockout stage. The CL has been put to bed for now, AVB and his heroic Blues must now face a new challenge and beat the league leaders on Monday.
Suddenly I am really looking forward to Christmas!!