Chelsea last night secured qualification for the Champions League quarter-final for the seventh time in nine Champions League campaigns with a 0-0 draw with Copenhagen, meaning a 2-0 aggregate victory.
Following a comfortable a first-leg 2-0 away victory in a freezing Copenhagen at the end of February, there was never much concern that Chelsea would not proceed to the next round of the competition, although the home supporters might have hoped to have seen some goals from their team.
Despite 24 shots at Copenhagen’s goalkeeper Johan Wiland’s goal, the deadlock was never broken, and the supporters, hoping for goals from an under-firing forward-line, were left disappointed. Certainly there was pre-match hope that Fernando Torres would open his Chelsea account against the competition’s lowest-seeded remaining team.
It would therefore have disappointed many to learn that Torres would start on the bench behind Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka. To their credit, Drogba and Anelka both had impressive games from the start, indicating that there is going to be real competition for striking places in the coming months. Drogba was having his best game for a long time, whilst Anelka looked a constant threat – both will be frustrated not to have scored against the Danes.
The tone for the match was set when, after four minutes, Ashley Cole drilled in a low cross for Frank Lampard who will have been disappointed not to test Wiland.
Chelsea dominated the first part of the match, playing some really impressive, slick football, and should have taken the lead on numerous occasions. Arguably the best chance of the game fell to Zhirkov in the 21st minute after good work on the left from Drogba and a square ball from Cole, but the Russian’s shot went just wide when he perhaps should have done better.
Despite being dominated, the Danes came closest to scoring in the first-half when, on 25 minutes, Dame N’Doye curled a 20-yard free-kick onto Petr Cech’s right-hand post.
This brought a little more confidence and belief to Copenhagen, but truthfully they never looked too threatening, and even though possession was reasonably even throughout the match, Chelsea always looked a lot more dangerous going forward.
Before the half-time whistle Drogba, Anelka and Zhirkov (again) all passed up great scoring opportunities, and Chelsea really should have ended the tie by this time.
The Blues continued their onslaught upon the Danish champions after the break, and it seemed inevitable that Carlo Ancelotti’s men would score eventually. Drogba passed up a glorious opportunity to convert a spectacular Jose Bosingwa cross three minutes into the half, and five minutes later John Obi Mikel was denied a rare goal by the crossbar.
With Torres warming up on the side-line the Drogba and Anelka seemed determined to try and leave a mark on the game and continued to work well together. Drogba was not at his sharpest in front of goal, but was regularly providing opportunities for others. Anelka had two guilt-edged opportunities to find the goal before being substituted for Torres with just over 20 minutes to go.
Torres nearly found the net moments after coming on via a wicked deflection off of William Kvist, and then a few minutes later worked well to get another shot away from a tight angle which was saved reasonably comfortably by Wiland.
Chelsea seemed to lose their intensity in the last 15 minutes of the game, with the introductions of Florent Malouda (for Zhirkov) and Michael Essien (for Mikel) making little difference. The home-side were still the more threatening but energy levels certainly deteriorated, and the game ended with the teams looking evenly matched. Luckily it was far too late for the Danes to salvage anything from the tie.
The main concern for Ancelotti after this result is the fact that none of his strikers (or anyone else for that matter) were able to score. Since Torres joined the club neither he nor Drogba have managed to score, with Anelka scoring two in the first leg against Copenhagen.
In spite of this, and although some may have been disappointed with the score-line at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea have advanced to the next stage of the competition with minimum fuss, and must be pleased.