Chelsea looked pretty good from the opening whistle in this one, and the outcome really wasn't in doubt for very long. A beautiful David Luiz pass was bungled home for the opener, and some bungling from the Russian side was finished beautifully by Victor Moses to make it 2-0.
Rubin got one back when John Terry was carded for handling the ball in the box, an away goal that Rubin were certainly hoping for. Fernando Torres' second of the match assured the Blues would head to Russia with a significant advantage, and it was relatively smooth sailing from that point onward.
Here are a few thoughts in the immediate aftermath of this one:
- When I saw the starting lineup, I was reasonably happy with Rafa's selection today. This seemed like it both prioritized Sunday's tie with Sunderland while fielding a team that wasn't effectively "Chelsea B". Management like that makes me think that Rafa might actually be capable of handling the continued fixture congestion somewhat capably. I'd still prefer to see Marko Marin given minutes instead of Yossi Benayoun, but it's such a minor quibble that it's hardly worth noting.
- One of the first things I noticed after kickoff was just how poor the pitch looked. I suppose even the best groundskeepers in the world will struggle to keep the pitch in perfect condition with the number of matches Chelsea have been playing on it this season.
- That was some pass by David Luiz to set up Chelsea's opener, wasn't it? I have to say, it was so perfect that even Fernando Torres couldn't screw it up. That wasn't for a lack of trying though...
- Eden Hazard makes us a better team. That said, I'm really not thrilled that we brought him on for Victor Moses when leading 2-1 in a first leg Europa League tie. If we're going to insist on using him instead of simply giving him the entire day off, why not put him on for Mata and give the Spaniard a little rest? If nothing else, it doesn't make us weaker defensively while trying to avoid giving up a 2nd away goal.
- Bringing Juan Mata off after we got our third goal of the game was sensible. When we've got as many matches as we do, I'm not sure I can say the same about bringing on Oscar in that situation. For someone that stresses rotation so much, Rafa sure seems to insist on using his star players when he doesn't need to an awful lot.
- The relatively comfortable win was probably just what the doctor ordered in terms of squad rotation. Chelsea should now be able to play without their best players next Thursday, with an eye on Manchester City at Wembley the following Sunday.