The fear that had gripped Chelsea fans' collective hearts over the possibility of being dumped out of the UEFA Champions League at the first hurdle was made to look incredibly stupid by a dominant Blues display against Valencia, seeing the hosts win 3-0 and, in combination with results elsewhere, emerge victorious in Group E.
Although we saw inspired performances from most of the team, one player stood out: Didier Drogba. The Ivorian hasn't been at his best so far this season in terms of his ability to find the goal and his apparent commitment towards removing opposition defenders by whatever means possible, but both of those quintessentially Drogbaeic features returned in full force at Stamford Bridge tonight.
It was like travelling back in time. Not three minutes had passed before some smooth footwork and deft finishing from the legend put the Blues 1-0, and Drogba spent the rest of the half bullying Valencia into submission. Whenever one of their deeper players received the ball without looking around, they were brutally mugged and dispossessed. Whenever a Chelsea player wanted an out ball, Drogba was there.
Drogba ended the day with two goals and an assist, and while he wasn't perfect (and was the beneficiary of Valencia charity for the opener and his assist to Ramires) he was still pretty bloody spectacular. It's fantastic to see him step up and get back to his best in a game that mattered as much as this one did. Chelsea with a completely functional centre forward are a much better side than one without. Welcome back, Didier.
Other notes - John Terry and Petr Cech have both been superb over the last few games, and David Luiz joined them with an absolutely sublime display. There were no moments of insanity, no crazy risks taken, just excellent centre back play all around from both our favourite poufy-haired Brazilian and the captain. While I think we all find David Luiz's erratic nature somewhat charming, it's nice to know that he can curtail it when he has to.
Something I did find funny - after we were 3-0 up, in the last few minutes, David Luiz thumped an incoming ball down out right back over Diego Alves' goal for a goal kick, hitting it fully 70 yards in the process. Gary Neville, who recently compared the centre back to a 10-year-old on a Playstation, praised him for being defensively minded and just clearing the ball. I suspect he was trying to score. It would have been the most David Luiz thing ever.
Oriol Romeu's going to get a lot of praise for his performance, but I was actually pretty underwhelmed by him as the lone holder. His passing and clearances were questionable, and he missed a couple of tackles to boot (he's still the best tackler I think I've ever seen). That's not to say he had a bad game, but he contributed (as did Branislav Ivanovic) to Chelsea's inability to get the ball out of their own half for long stretches of the match.
Also, I've invented a word: Sturridging. Def: Using a combination of speed and skill to set up a situation where a simple cross will lead to a teammate scoring and instead shooting into the goalkeeper. I have absolutely no idea what my particular muse for this one was.
Anyway, this was a result and a performance to celebrate. Congratulation to the boys for pulling out a wonderful game when it really mattered, congratulations to Andre Villas-Boas for giving a nice big middle finger to the press, and... uh, I've run out of people to congratulate. Oh well. I'll live.