Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Survived Chelsea Thanks For Drogba...

A superby-worked equalising goal by Romanian side Cluj generated palpable anxiety at Stamford Bridge - at least until Roma scored against Bordeaux in the group's other contest - in a game that Chelsea struggled to control convincingly until the latter stages. But Didier Drogba came off the bench and scored a brilliant winner for the Blues to dispel all the tension and ensure their safe passage to the next round.

Drogba Calms Chelsea's Nerves Against Plucky Cluj
The first half saw Chelsea moving the ball around too slowly, and with inufficient width, to be effective against the tidy Romanians. Lacking great pace and exerting too little pressure, Chelsea were unable to get their game flowing in the first period. And on a night of tension it took them 40 minutes to make the breakthrough.

The game began with Jon Obi Mikel taking possession 40 yards out but lashing his shot well high and wide.

But Cluj, knowing that they could not progress in Europe at all this season, were relaxed and looked dangerous on the break. Alvaro Pereira drilled in a 30-yard effort that forced Chelsea keeper Petr Cech to scurry across and make a diving save, just in case.

Then Deco swung in a free-kick for the Blues which Alex rose high to head down into the turf and up over the crossbar in Chelsea's first real sight of goal.

However, the Blues were close to going behind when Juan Culio whipped in a cross that was headed goalwards by Hugo Alcantara, requiring Mikel to race back and make a superb goal-line clearance.

At the other end, Joe Cole chested down a cross from the left on the edge of the area and set himself for a shot which he sliced wide of Nuno Claro's left-hand post. But Cole was looking dangerous for Chelsea and really needed better service as the Cluj defence was generally coping quite comfortably.

There was another threat when Salomon Kalou tried a shot from the edge of the 18-yard box which was deflected up over the bar with Claro floundering, wrong-footed by the deflection.

The home side finally eased nerves on 40 minutes, when Deco's free-kick from some 40 yards out found Kalou unmarked and with time to control the ball and fire into the net from close range for his first goal in ten matches.

Chelsea began the second half at a higher tempo, and they were enjoying their best spell of the match. Joe Cole had a shot that was straight at Claro, but just two minutes later, Cluj were level. Juan Culio backheeled the ball to Cristian Panin on the right flank, and Panin's made-to-measure cross sailed just beyond Alex for striker Yssouf Kone to head home emphatically past Cexh at the far post. It was an excellent goal, and suddenly Chelsea were up against it again.

They responded strongly, Joe Cole bringing the ball down and getting in a fierce shot which Claro did well to push behind for a corner.

News that Roma had gone in front against Bordeaux was greeted with relief by the Chelsea fans, but the mood was still tense. Then Scolari introduced Didier Drogba off the bench in place of goalscorer Kalou.

Six minutes later, the Ivorian had put Chelsea back in front. It was another stunning goal as Joe Cole chipped the ball over a Cluj defender and perfectly into space for Drogba, who took it down in his stride with a deft touch to control it, then with a second touch prodded it past Nuno Claro and into the net.

Joe Cole was then withdrawn, receiving an ovation from the fans as Juliano Belletti came on. Cluj suddenly looked tired and beaten after Chelsea's second goal, and the Blues were now comfortably in control for the first time.

It wasn't a clinical or stylish Chelsea performance, but they maintained their record of reaching the knock-out stages of the Champions League seven times out of seven.

Chelsea: Cech, Ashley Cole, Terry, Alex, Bosingwa, Kalou, Deco, Mikel, Ballack, Joe Cole, Anelka. Subs: Cudicini, Ivanovic, Drogba, Bridge, Ferreira, Belletti, Stoch.

CFR Cluj
-Napoca: Nuno Claro, Pereira, Hugo Alcantara, Cadu, Panin, Muresan, Dani, Culio, Trica, Dubarbier, Yssouf Kone. Subs: Hirschfeld, Peralta, Prette, Deac, De Souza, Emmanuel Kone, Ruiz.

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