Chelsea cruised to a 2-0 win over FC Copenhagen in the first leg of their Champions League clash as the Blues made a mockery of the Dane's previous unbeaten record in the competition, as well as their previous abysmal domestic form. Carlo Ancelotti's 4-4-2, spearheaded by Fernando Torres and Nicolas Anelka, came out of the blocks strong and ran roughshod over their hosts for the entirety of the first half before dialing down the tempo and riding out a rather incompetent second half storm with considerable aplomb.
With two vital away goals and a reasonably large cushion heading into the home leg at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea can now sit back and relax a little as far as Europe is concerned. Copenhagen winning by two goals in London is so unlikely as to be almost unthinkable*, so I think we can put to rest our fears of going out in the last sixteen for the second year in a row. Carlo Ancelotti's job was the subject of rather intense speculation from the media after getting knocked out in the FA Cup last weekend.
Anyway, the game started pretty brightly for the visitors, despite the fear that Florent Malouda and Ashley Cole would be worn out by their efforts against Everton on Saturday. Malouda, sporting a new look that seemed to rejuvenate his play, constantly found himself in plenty of space as Copenhagen left the flanks free to concentrate on the threat posed by Anelka and Torres in the centre of the pitch - not that that did them any good as the strike pair wove brilliant patterns in the final third of the pitch.
Chelsea had a chance inside the first minute as Malouda volleyed well after being fed by Torres after the £50M acquisition waltzed straight through about six bodies to find the touchline and send in a looping cross past goalkeeper Johan Wiland. Malouda's choice to use his left boot rather than his head to turn the ball goalward was bizarre - his hair is no longer mess-uppable, after all - and it was an almost impossible shot to get on target with the way the ball dropped onto his foot. When Torres mis-controlled after a corner following Ramires' shot gone horribly wrong, it seemed as though Chelsea might have yet another day when they had chances to win but failed to take them.
Enter Nicolas Anelka, with an assist from Chelsea old boy Jesper Gronkjaer. There was no great threat with Copenhagen in possession on their left, but Gronkjaer misplaced a backwards pass and suddenly Anelka was in possession with both Malouda and Torres in support, and three defenders to beat. With the other black shirts drawing the defenders off Anelka's surge forward, he was left alone against Michael Antonsson, who got a challenge in time just to see a shot go straight through his legs - and then right past Wiland too, who was unsighted and make virtually no attempt at a save. Suddenly, Chelsea were up 1-0 in the 17th minute, and life was looking far better for Blues fans, despite a heart-stopping moment when it looked like John Terry might have collected a red card for bringing a white shirt down just outside the box (no foul was given).
The rest of the half was a story of Chelsea dominance. They were letting Copenhagen play the ball in their own half, but as soon as the crossed halfway the hosts and the ball were tidily seperated, mainly thanks to the excellent play of both Michael Essien and Ramires. As soon as Chelsea had the ball again, the forwards would dance through the defence, with Torres' slick passing opening up the play before the ball inevitably found Malouda in acres of space on the left. Then the ball would go back to Torres and he'd find a way to somehow not score - at one point during the match I accused him of having the first touch of a dead leper, but having looked at the replays that was an unfair statement. The man, right now, is just calamitously unlucky in front of goal.
Oh, and there were offsides too. So many offsides. That was about all that the home side did right int he first half, and I'm not convinced that they were doing it on purpose. Dame N'Doye did nothing, Cesar Santini did nothing. It was all pretty sad.
The second half was different, with Chelsea going into sleepy mode early on and nearly being caught out by a long-range effort by substitute Martin Vingaard almost immediately after the restart. However, they were able to profit from the wave of Copenhagen attacks, with Frank Lampard finding himself in possession with options to his left and right. A pass to Torres was the easy and obvious choice, and considering Lampard's performance up until that point, it was about all we could have expected him to do without screwing up.
Instead he sent an angled pass right through the defence for Anelka to tuck away first time for his brace. Neat!
The rest of the match became about finding some way for Torres to break his duck with the Blues, and things started to descend into farce by the time he had run past two defenders, beat them again for the sheer hell of it, then see his save saved by a sprawling Wiland. Then, after Didier Drogba had come on to replace Anelka, Torres beat the goalkeeper and had a shot cleared off the line. Cue numerous blocks, some misplays, etc, etc, etc.
Terry and Malouda both managed to pick up bookings in the second half, the former for a bad tackle and the latter for taking too long to get off the field when he was substituted for Yuri Zhirkov. These were the first yellow cards in the competition for each player, meaning that there'll be no suspensions for anyone just yet (players are suspended after their 3rd booking in the Champions League). Meanwhile, Copenhagen right-back Zdenek Pospech was also cautioned - unlike the Chelsea players whose names were taken down by the referee, he's now ineligible for the return leg at Stamford Bridge.
Oh, and the home team did a little bit of shooting in the second half. Petr Cech found that kind of funny.