Who captained Chelsea when they secured passage from this year's Champions League group stages? It wasn't John Terry (rested). Nor was it vice-captain Frank Lampard, who is still sidelined with a groin complaint. Didier Drogba did wear the armband, notch a goal, and record an assist, but by the time the final whistle had been blown he was long removed from the game. Instead it was third-choice right-back Paulo Ferreira who did the deed, although he had very little to do with the professional second-half display from the Blues at Stamford Bridge. Ferreira joins John Terry and Dennis Wise as the only two men to captain Chelsea as they qualify from Champions League group play.
Although the final score would suggest an entertaining match, fans were actually subjected to a fairly dull first half. Nicolas Anelka came close as Chelsea attacked the Shed End, but Spartak were not without chances of their own. Aiden McGeady and playmaker Alex (not our one) both came close, the later forcing a sprawling save from Petr Cech. The other Alex perhaps should have scored when just a yard out and faced with an empty net, but an awkward lunge and the attention of two Spartak players saw the defender shin the ball high above the net. The back-and-forth state of affairs continued until half time, but with Marseille devouring MSK Zilina, Chelsea knew they needed to get three points to second top spot in their group.
So they did. Just minutes after the restart, Salomon Kalou dragged huge swathes of the visiting defence out of position before releasing Nicolas Anelka inside the area. Anelka was faced with a tough angled shot, which he guided expertly past Andriy Dikan for the opening goal. Within five minutes of the interval, Chelsea were in position to qualify outright from Group F, and their tails were up.
Before long, Didier Drogba got involved, skipping past one challenge before being dragged down inside the area by Yevgeni Makeev. The striker got up, brushed himself off, and strode to the penalty spot before lashing in a shot for Chelsea's second. Dikan guessed the right way and very nearly got a hand to the ball, but there was simply too much power behind Drogba's strike.
Branislav Ivanovic was next to feature on the scoresheet, this time with a glorious header following a neat delivery from Drogba's cross, the Serbian making it two goals in two games. With the score 3-0 and twenty minute left on the clock, Ancelotti brought on the youth squad. Josh McEachran, Gael Kakuta, and Daniel Sturridge all emerged, with John Obi Mikel, Anelka, and Drogba all making way. The substitutions brought on a spell of intense Chelsea pressure, but the front line was having some major problems with finishing moves. Sturridge and Kalou were particularly guilty of failing to convert multiple chances, and Ramires managed to hit Nicolas Pereja on the line with Dikan out of the picture and the rest of the goal at his mercy.
While Chelsea looked at times like making the game a total rout, the next goal, bizarrely, fell to Spartak. Some sloppy defending by the Blues led to the visitors breaking into the box, and Nikita Bazhenov ruined Petr Cech's long goalless streak at Stamford Bridge (he hadn't conceded here since John Carew's goal last March), albeit from an offside position. It was Ivanovic, though, who had the last laugh, spinning quickly and slamming home after picking up a loose ball deep into injury time.
4-1 Chelsea, twelve points from twelve, and progress guaranteed. All it will take now is a solitary point from the home match against MSK Zilina to ensure first place in the group.