Watching your team play football isn't fun. Supporters know this. We watch because we're compelled to, not because we expect to enjoy it. Even at its very best, football can be 90 minutes of excruciating stress, and the cheers at the end of big wins are often more about the release of tension than a genuine outpouring of raw happiness. Results are fun. Games, generally less fun.
But then sometimes you get 6-0 romps over the Slovenian champions to amuse you, and everything is ok. Maribor aren't a bad team, but they're definitely a bad team in relation to Chelsea Football Club, and it showed on Tuesday. The Blues were superior in every department, and if not for some overindulgent play, especially from Eden Hazard, might have won by more like eight or nine. Still, six was plenty to consolidate our hold on top spot in Group G.
The beginning of the match was actually a little nervy, with the midfield reverting to its early-season, headache-inducing openness. The first two shots belonged to Maribor, one a free header (albeit a completely spurned free header), and there was a distinct feeling of unease settling in by about the 13th minute. Which, of course, is when we scored and began the merry parade of goals.
Jasmin Handanovic (cousin of Samir) punted the ball long, John Terry came out to challenge, and after some pinball involving Oscar, possession broke to the captain inside the centre circle. Most defenders would have been content to quickly squeeze off a pass to a midfielder and run away, but Terry, spotting Loïc Rémy's run, instead opted for a raking through ball into the right channel.
Although it didn't quite set Rémy away, the pass was good enough to let him find a yard of space atop the box and slide a left-footed shot in at the first post. That was the good news -- the bad is that Rémy managed to injure himself in the process. Didier Drogba came on shortly for the stricken Frenchman thereafter.
Drogba's previous goal for Chelsea is fairly well-known, and so beloved around Stamford Bridge that Eden Hazard was content to allow the striker to re-enact it after the Blues were given a penalty for Ales Mertelj's handball. Jose Mourinho, as it turned out, was somewhat less than thrilled that Hazard wasn't the one taking the spot kick, but any irritation was quickly killed off by Drogba rolling in a perfectly-placed shot to Handanovic's right.
The home faithful was pleased by this turn of events.
The next goal was a testament to the level of our opponents today. John Terry scoring from a corner is commonplace, but normally they're our corners, not theirs. Not on Tuesday. Maribor saw a set piece cleared, which led to the familiar sight of Hazard scampering up the pitch with Cesc Fabregas in close attendance. But in the other channel, Terry continued his run, not stopping until Fabregas had slid a cross in for him to tap into the empty net (no, I'm not going to admit he was offside. Don't ruin this for me).
At 2-0, the game was over. At 3-0? Super over. Then at 4-0, 5-0, 6-0 ... well, I can't imagine the game was very enjoyable for Maribor fans. For us it was a different story, especially with Hazard in a particularly mischievous mood. The Belgian was at the top of his game and having a blast, and he was pulling out all of the stops even before the scoreline got silly. There was the rabona he pulled before the break, the weird heel-drag he screwed up one on one with Handanovic after a great interchange with Drogba. Even the fourth goal was rendered a little bit weird by Hazard over-elaborating -- he should have had a tap-in after fine work from Filipe Luis down the left, but instead collected the ball and played a bank shot in off the hapless Mitja Viler.
Perhaps it was pity that motivated Nemanja Matic to concede a penalty just after the hour mark. If so, that's completely understandable. The attacking midfielders were absolutely humiliating their guests, and Matic seems more hospitable than most. But whatever his reasons, he barged through the back of Agim Ibraimi, giving the referee an easy decision and Maribor an easy chance. With which they hit the post (Petr Cech guessed the right way and on first viewing it looked like he touched it onto the woodwork himself, so well done him).
The Blues responded to that almost-setback with what would have been the goal of the night. Willian, on the run, fizzed in a brilliant effort from 25 yards that left Handanovic at sixes and sevens but crashed back off the crossbar and to safety. They'd have to work a bit harder to find that elusive fifth goal.
Eventually Branislav Ivanovic took it upon himself to create the re-re-re-re-breakthrough. Unfortunately it was with perhaps the worst dive ever: the right back charged into the penalty box, was fouled, stayed on his feet, remembered that he'd been fouled and should therefore take the penalty,then went down a second later after Marko Suler breathed in his general vicinity. Managing to dive when you deserved a penalty for a completely different foul which bounced off you is reasonably impressive, so well done Branislav.
Hazard didn't let Drogba take the spot kick this time, instead sending Handanovic sprawling with his magical eyes before rolling a shot into the corner for five. And the Belgian would get his second and Chelsea's sixth in injury time, taking a peach of a pass from Nathan Ake in stride before twirling his way through the Maribor defence and blasting in. He very nearly grabbed a hattrick with the last kick of the match, too, but his shot, which came after he'd danced past no fewer than four defenders, was too weak and therefore easily gathered.
There was, of course, a non-goal moment to savour: the debut of Dom Solanke, who came on in the 73rd minute and put in a fairly decent shift. While he unfortunately wasn't involved in either of the goals scored in his presence, it's still a big moment for the young man, who at 17 years and 112 days becomes the club's youngest ever Champions League participant.
All in all, then, a job well done. Rémy's injury is going to be a problem, but we can worry about that tomorrow. For now, sit back, relax and bask in the joy of a job well done.