Chelsea will fly home from the Mediterranean a relieved side after APOEL Nicosia threw everything at them on a warm night in Cyprus.
The home side had enough chances in the second half to earn a point, but a mixture of poor finishing and some good defending ensured Chelsea made it two wins out of two.
Speaking of two, Nicolas Anelka made scored his second Champions League goal of the season from Juliano Belletti’s cut back. In the end it proved enough for the win, but a similar performance against Liverpool at the weekend would see The Blues soundly beaten.
It was unsurprisingly a cauldron of noise as the players entered the GSP stadium in Nicosia, but the visitors didn’t let it affect them as Ashley Cole burst forward from kick off and won a corner after 15 seconds.
The first real chance came in the 15th minute when Saloman Kalou, in for the suspended Didier Drogba, could only stab Anelka’s cutback wide.
The frustration from that miss didn’t last long as three minutes later Anelka planted the ball into Dionissis Chiotis’ top corner after great work in the build up by Belletti.
It was a goal The Blues deserved after their positive start, but they almost let APOEL back in immediately, Konstantinos Charalambidis firing wide from the edge of the box.
Ashley Cole then headed wide from Branislav Ivanovic’s cross as the game started to open up, the home side struggling to make the most of some good build up.
Big centre half Christos Kontis came close just before the break with a near post header, but failed to control his glance and sent ball over the bar.
The poor finishing ensuring Ancelotti got his players at the break still in front.
The second half didn’t make good viewing for Chelsea fans, as the ball was repeatedly given away in midfield as APOEL were invited again and again to attack,
Petr Cech saved well from Savvas Poursaitides’ shot, which deflected off John Terry and threatened to wrong foot the big keeper.
Terry, along with Cole was also on hand to make several crucial clearing headers as Charalamabidis swung the ball in repeatedly. Plenty of shouting and organising being done by the two England defenders.
Up the other end Anelka was becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of service as Kalou and Malouda toiled in midfield.
Deco and Joe Cole came on to replace the disappointing Kalou and the increasingly overrun Belletti as Carlo Ancelotti looked to get his side back on course, and they almost sealed it with 15 minutes to go when Ivanovic’s pull back was missed by a sliding Frank Lampard but fell to Malouda 8 yards out. The Frenchmen’s finish however, was tame as he side footed straight at Chiotis.
The APOEL fans tried to spur their team on to find the elusive equaliser in the last 10 minutes, and they almost got it from the lively Charamlambidis, but he could only direct his diving header wide as he raced in at the back post.
By now some fans had started to head for the exits, sensing the dream goal against the millionaires from London would never come.
In the end Chelsea held on to secure a vital win, not only bouncing back after defeat at Wigan on Saturday, but also staying 3 points clear at the top of Group D.
Teams: APOEL: Chiotis, Grncarov, Morais, Haxhi, Poursaitides, Charamlambidis (Jean Paulista 85), Pinto, Kontis, Alexandrou (Kosowski 58), Michael (Breska 80), Mirosavljevic
Subs not used: Kissas, Elia, Satsias, Papathanasiou
Chelsea: Cech, Ivanovic, Terry, Carvalho, Cole, Belletti (Deco 68), Essien, Lampard, Malouda, Kalou (J Cole 80), Anelka.
Subs not used: Hilario, Hutchinson, Bruma, Zhirkov, Sturridge.
Booked: Ivanovic, Kalou
Man of the Match: Ashley Cole – tireless again down the left, getting forward well particularly in the first half, and defending well when he had to.