CL Recap: MŠK Žilina 1-4 Chelsea

This one is for those special CFC ladies out there. Kickette can eat its pretty lil' heart out.

zilina1

"Every game in the Champions League is hard to play." -Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti

Beg to differ, sir.

Wednesday evening, back where the fruits of the Roman Abramovich era were first soiled, Chelsea sprung their latest foray into the Champions League alight with a coast of coasts. Indeed. In Zilina, Slovakia, the cultural hub of Europe, a quartet of goals - all as simple as they come - provided the backdrop for another rampant Blues dissection. Indeed, our start to this season has been something of dreams. Inception, even.

These goals, the last provided by the mercurial Daniel Sturridge just four minutes into the second half, sent blog HQ into a mix of interpretive dance and parkour. A release of the proverbial gas pedal followed, but only resulted in injecting some much-needed theatrics - and humour (Cech?) - into a result that was pressed and shipped to Nyon at halftime.

Could it have been easier? Sure. Was it easy? Certainly.

What you need to know
• We won. Comfortably.
• We didn’t really get out of third gear. Again. (this is becoming a broken record)
• Zilina fought. Hard. Kudos to the Slovakians for a gritty, yet honest display.
• Nicolas Anelka could've had four, maybe more.
• Josh McEachran, as mentioned in the previous post, became the first player to make a CL appearance having been born after the competition's unveiling in 1992. Sick.

Skywalker.  skywalker

Of Note
A lesson in clinical play
• The first-half performance by our Chelsea was not as consumate as the pundits would have us believe. However, in terms of efficiency, it was as lethal a 45 minutes as seen this season.

Though Zilina enjoyed themselves much more in the second half, they were by no means passengers during the first. There was possession. There were chances, though nothing of real threat. The killer blow to their plan? The advanced backline.

While that strategy was able to crowd the midfield, and thus inhibited our ability to move the ball as well as we have so far this season, it also left Zilina succeptible to pace. Not good for the hosts, especially against a side featuring the likes of Sturridge and Anelka. Le Sulk exposed this time and time again over the opening 45, as exemplified by his first-half brace. Sturridge did so to open the second half.

Once we opted to frolic about - or play to feet - we struggled. Not exactly a complaint, but a key observation. Rid ourselves of the complacency, and we may just rewrite the scoring annals with the way this side is finishing.

Joey missed? Hardly
• Yossi Benayoun. Not exactly a favorite, with fans or even this blog, when he was signed from Liverpool for around £6 million in the summer. Allowing Joe Cole to leave on a free, and replacing him with a player of similar taste, only older and for a fee seemed a bit ludicrous. Not so much as it turns out.

Quoting myself from the Wigan 0-6 Chelsea match recap on 23 August: "I foresee some excellent displays from the Israeli in the near future."

We didn't have to wait long, at all. Yossi's first competitive start for the club displayed much, all of which was positive. A loose start gave way to an excellent night in which the 30-year-old did it all. Link-up play? Check. Assured on the ball? Check. Quality movement and a bit of tracking back? Check and, surprisingly, check. He was a damn polymath in Zilina. Never thought I would use both damn and polymath in the same sentence, but there you go.

The way he dropped deep into midfield in an effort to jumpstart the attack - ala Frank Lampard, Nicolas Anelka - was commendable. His threaded ball that set up Sturrridge's debut CL goal to open the second half was a thing of sheer beauty. I teared up. Not really, but you get the point.

There were real glimpes of Eidur Gudjohnsen in Benayoun's play. And, seeing as Eidur is one of The CO's favorite players ever, this bodes extremely well. Perhaps Super Frank can take a few more days off this season in light of the club knowing it has such a performer available in his stead.

Youth served
• Did you remotely think you'd ever see the day when three youth products were on the field, at the same time? In a Champions League game no less? You are certainly not alone.

Chilling is how I would describe the moment when Patrick Van Aanholt joined fellow young'ns Gael Kakuta and Josh McEachran in the fracas. The fact that all three - perhaps PVA less so considering the minimal time he had to make an impact - conducted themselves with the calm reserved for much more experienced players is an even greater sign of what's to come.

There was a moment when McEachran, just 17 mind you, chested down a pass near the touchline, controlled it and retained possession despite pressure from a pair of Zilina defenders. Somewhere, Frank Arnesen was smiling.

warm embrace
A warm embrace.

Player Ratings
Petr Cech
A woeful flap marred an otherwise steady game. Coupled with his poor punch against West Ham, which led to a goal, that's successive outings featuring a moment of messiness. 5

Branislav Ivanovic
Not exactly at his best at the moment. Perhaps a lack of confidence is at the root? Nevertheless, much more involved than say Zhirkov. A solid display. 6.5

Alex
Continued his righteous bit of form. Dominating. 7

John Terry
Showed up on the right wing in the first half. That was a testament to the ease in which Chelsea performed at the start. Kept it together when the pressure surfaced later in the match. 7

Yuri Zhirkov
Anonymous. Somewhat improved in the final stages, finding his way into support of the front three, but was largely a nonfactor. All that talk of relishing his chance did not seem to translate on the field. 5.5

John Obi Mikel
More of the same. What can be said that hasn't already? A must-have on the first-team sheet now. 7

Michael Essien
Carried over his fine form from West Ham. The easiest of finishes to open the scoring. So active, so commanding, in the middle of the park. 7.5

Yossi Benayoun
Read the above bullet on why we loved the Israeli's performance. He did it all. 8.5 (CO MOTM)

Daniel Sturridge
Not exactly great. Not exactly poor, either. A conundrum? Still adjusting to wing play. Despite this, was still able to score his fifth goal in seven starts for the club. However you slice it, that's superlative. Was disappointed he was replaced rather than Anelka. Would have benefited from some time at the point. Still believe he will shine before the end of the term. 7

Florent Malouda
A weird night. Was involved in all four goals, yet I could not get a real grasp on how well he played. Credit to his movement and general ability to influence, though. Clever dummy to clear way for Essien on the opener. 7

Nicolas Anelka
An excellent evening in Slovakia for the Frenchman. May well have recorded a hat trick before halftime. His movement, as silky and effective as ever. 8.5 (Readers' MOTM)

Gael Kakuta
Was comfortable, but would have liked to see the young Frenchman exert himself more. This was certainly a platform to do so. 6

Josh McEachran
Looked at home for the most part, despite the game representing his competitive debut for the club. That moment in stoppage time, as mentioned earlier, showed the quality this kid possesses. Here's to hoping for more of that this season. 6.5

Patrick Van Aanholt
Sadly, not enough time to warrant a full rating. Still stoked to see him amongst the playing crowd. N/A

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