Chelsea shook off the shock of the home loss to Basel by absolutely crushing Steaua Bucharest in Romania. The Blues have been here before, of course, losing 1-0 to these same opponents during the ultimately successful Europa League campaign, but this wasn't quite the same team as we encountered last season. Minus Vlad Chiriches and Raul Rusescu, Steaua looked far weaker than the side we met in March, and as it turned out they had no answer to Chelsea's quality.
The Blues controlled the game from the outset, and it was clear from the beginning that a goal was on its way, even despite the early injury to Fernando Torres*. The hosts had no answers for either Andre Schurrle or Juan Mata v 2.0, and it took a mere 20 minutes for the first goal to arrive. Schurrle was the architect, wriggling his way down the left hand side and passing for Samuel Eto'o to control and prod goalwards. It was a weak effort, and would never have gone in on its own, but fortunately Ramires was on hand to scoop over Ciprian Tatarusanu and in for the lead.
*We have an international break coming up and he's banned for the Norwich City match, so this probably isn't too big a deal.
We'd scored the opening goal against Basel too, so I can't imagine a single Chelsea supporter was comfortable with the 1-0 lead, despite the Blues' dominance. And as halftime approached, that dominance fell away -- Steaua were beginning to find some serious purchase in our half, and the whole match was starting to feel a little bit nervy. It was time, in other words, for a comedy own goal. Daniel Georgievski obliged just before the interval.
It might have been a Steaua own goal, but credit has to go to the duo of Mata and Eto'o, who combined for some marvelous counterattacking play. Mata slipped the Cameroonian through against Tatarusanu, and although Eto'o failed to slip it past the keeper, the rebound ended up hitting Georgievski and bouncing in, Antonio Luna style.
And so we entered the break up by two and with the victory pretty much assured. That was enough to bring Oscar out of whatever shell he'd been inhabiting for the first 45 minutes and back into the thick of things, and from then on Chelsea were even further on top. Ramires took it to 3-0 in the 55th minute after some fantastic work by Schurrle on the left flank, and the Blues could have had several more, with both Mata and Oscar hitting the woodwork.
There was time for a scare or two. Petr Cech managed to run into the goalpost while tipping over Cristian Tanasa's chip, and Steaua could easily have easily have scored a consolation thanks to some late defensive errors. But everyone stepped up when they needed to, and the match ended with a flourish thanks to Frank Lampard, who scored in the 90th minute after being set up by Willian (who was in turn set up by Eto'o, who'd been played in by Cesar Azpilicueta, who was playing as an attacking midfield for some reason).
4-0 would be your final score, and although Chelsea remain in third place in the group thanks to Schalke's 1-0 win against Basel and UEFA's use of the head-to-head tiebreaker, this was a pretty good way to expunge the sheer horror which was the opening day loss. It's rare these days that we get a win so free of any drama -- we took an early lead and added to it with no fuss and no stress -- so let's just savour it. Our Champions League dream remains very much alive.