Brilliant Blues batter Greeks
A sublime Chelsea eased past Olympiakos 3-0 at Stamford Bridge to book their place in the quarter-finals of the Champions League.
By Graeme Bailey
Last Updated: 06/03/08 9:10am
A sublime Chelsea eased past Greek champions Olympiakos 3-0 at Stamford Bridge to book their place in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League.
The two teams drew a blank in Athens two weeks ago - but there was no repeat in West London as Chelsea dominated from the first whistle.
The Blues were ahead after just six minutes as Michael Ballack headed home Frank Lampard's cross from close-range.
Lampard then doubled the lead just 20 minutes later when helped the ball over the line after Ballack's blast was blocked by Antonis Nikopolidis.
Olympiakos were awful for most of the evening and the result was put beyond any doubt just minutes into the second-half when Salomon Kalou poked home a Lampard corner.
The only negative aspect of the evening was the news of goalkeeper Petr Cech picking up an injury and missing the game. Carlo Cudicini, Cech's replacement, could not have chosen a better game to step in for Grant's first-choice stopper. He barely touched the ball in the first 45 minutes.
The hosts had already offered an early warning when Kalou slipped Ashley Cole through and the full-back drove in the a low cross that had to be cleared by Julio Cesar.
It mattered little, though, as Ballack grabbed the fifth-minute opener from the throw. Lampard took a touch on the flank to steady himself for a cross then found Ballack at the near post, who planted his header beyond Nikopolidis.
It was with the German midfielder's fifth goal of the season, his first in the Champions League campaign after getting brought back into the European squad for the knockout stages.
Didier Drogba could have doubled the lead after midfielder Cole skipped down the left and found the Ivory Coast striker, but the finish was too high.
Claude Makelele, encouraged by the crowd to add to his two Chelsea goals, also shot from long distance but Nikopolidis saved easily.
Darko Kovacevic looked as toothless as he was during his unsuccessful spell at Sheffield Wednesday in the mid-1990s before he went on prove himself in Spain.
He was not helped by a lack of support. Their one moment of promise in the first half, when Vassilis Torosidis crossed from the right, came to nothing as his ball eluded Predrag Djordjevic.
Chelsea's second came in the 25th minute, with the role of provider and goalscorer reversed from the opener as Ballack's shot was parried by Nikopolidis and Lampard tapped in the rebound.
The hosts started the second half as they had the first, with Lampard getting a shot blocked two minutes after the restart.
From the corner, taken by Lampard, Kalou stabbed in from close-range after Drogba and Carvalho failed to get contact on their efforts.
Now in total cruise control, Grant's men should have added another when Kalou played Lampard through but the England midfielder screwed his shot wide.
Leonardo and Fernando Belluschi were brought on to give a different edge to the Olympiakos attack, with the latter forcing a save from Cudicini with a free-kick. It was their first shot of the game, after an hour, and the stand-in stopper did not have to move to keep the ball out.
Drogba was sent through at the other end and had the ball in the net, but the assistant referee had flagged for offside.
Belluschi also struck the bar and Cudicini was required to make a double save from a free-kick, but it would have not mattered.
|2||1st Half Goals||0|
|8||Shots on Target||3|
|6||Shots off Target||3|