Chelsea head into the Champions league knock out phase draw on Monday in the group winner’s pot after securing top spot in group E with a 1-0 home win against Steaua Bucharest. Our possible opponents are Galatasary, AC Milan, Olympiakos, Zenit St Petersburg, and Bayer Leverkusen. Schalke join us as qualifiers from our group after seeing of Basle in Gelsenkirchen.
A draw would have been enough to see us top the group, but we managed a 1-0 courtesy of a Demba Ba goal.
We dominated possession for most of the match, maintaining over 60% of the ball throughout, but often struggling to breakdown the opposition and create any meaningful chances. Steaua never pressed us deep, so our backline, as well as Lampard and Mikel in front found themselves with lots of time on the ball. We did spend large amounts of time with the ball around the halfway line, moving from side to side trying to find an opening. Ivanovic and Cole occupied the full back positions and were asked to play very wide when we had possession, and were often on the end of long diagonal passes from Terry and Luiz, Hazard and Willian also found space out wide with this tactic used to switch the play quickly. The first half corner count was good evidence of us getting to the opposition touch line, but not succeeding with the final ball, we managed 12 to Steaua’s 0. It was from one of our numerous early corners that the only goal of the match was scored. Oscar met Lampard’s corner from the right at the near post, who flicked the out swinging ball across goal to the far post, where Demba Ba had evaded his marker to knock home. With 10 minutes on the clock, it had been a great start from Chelsea.
Two minutes later, Steaua Bucharest had their first chance of the night. Mikel was caught on the ball in central midfield after trying to beat one man to many, and a through ball split our centre backs, putting Iancu clean through. Cech closed the angle, and he fired wide. A warning for Chelsea.
Whether Steaua had a plan to sit deeper in midfield and cut out space in front of their area, or they just weren’t being drawn out towards Lampard and Mikel only they will know, but either way they made it hard for players to be found between the lines, or in advanced area’s centrally, forcing more balls wide. Mihai Pintilii did a good job tracking the movement of Oscar, and whoever else drifted into the central attacking midfield area. Lampard fired a couple of shots across their bows, both from range. One dipped just over, another was a first time volley from a corner kick routine where he was found on the edge of the area, this time his effort was wide. Despite our control of possession, we had no other real efforts of note for Tatarusanu in the Steaua goal to deal with. The Romanian’s struggled to provide anymore chances themselves, only one other blocked effort on target, again a counter attack, this time down the left as Ivanovic was caught out of position up field supporting an attack, the shot resulting from the low cross diverted from danger.
Chelsea were extremely well drilled defensively, and put in a much needed solid display. The pressing high up the field was excellent, each man knowing whom he should be closing down and in which area. This forced them into surrendering the ball early, very rarely getting past the midfield. This was why they created so few chances.
The second half was much the same story from both sides. Chelsea with the same control on the match, but without killing it off. At times it seemed that to many touches were being taken, the ball not moved quick enough to draw the defence out of position. Hazard had a god match, but seemed to try and dribble his way to goal every time he received the ball. Willian, whilst working hard and tracking back manfully, lacked the quality of final ball required, surrendering possession to many times. Our best chances of the half came after Mourinho had introduced substitutes. Schurrle on for Oscar with 25 minutes remaining, and De Bruyne on for Willian. Both created chances. Schurrle beating the right back and cutting along the by line, his deflected cross headed over by Hazard from inside the 6 yard box. De Bruyne also got into a similar position, his low ball knocked into the side netting by a Steaua defender at full stretch.
While an inability to kill matches off was still evident, and we still struggled to break down a stout defence, the defensive performance and a clean sheet was a big positive. The main job was of course to secure top spot in the group, job done.
Chelsea 1-0 Steaua Bucharest
Schwarzer; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry ©, Cole; Mikel, (Ramires 75),
Lampard; Willian, (De Bruyne 77), Oscar, (Schurrle 66), Hazard;
Tatarusanu; Szukala, Gardos, Pirvulescu, Latovlevici;
Pintilii, (Tatu 64), Stanciu, (Prepelita 60), Iancu;
Chipciu, Kapetanos, Georgievski.