Blues fight back for welcome win
Chelsea had to come from behind to claim a morale-boosting win over Zilina and maintain their 100% record.
By Ben Collins
Last Updated: 23/11/10 10:45pm
Chelsea had to come from behind to claim a morale-boosting win over MSK Zilina and maintain their 100% record in Group F, securing top spot in the process.
Carlo Ancelotti's men had secured their place in the Champions League knock-out stage with two games to spare but came into Tuesday's match on the back of three defeats in four - their worst Premier League run since Roman Abramovich took over in 2003.
Their problems looked set to get worse when the Slovakian champions took a shock lead through a well-worked 19th-minute strike by Babatounde Bello. After all, Zilina slipped to the biggest home defeat in Champions League history last time out - losing 7-0 to Marseille for their fourth defeat from four.
But Daniel Sturridge drew an inexperienced Chelsea side level in the 51st minute before Florent Malouda won it four minutes from time, which was the least the Premier League champions deserved after a second-half onslaught.
Only five of the starters for Saturday's 1-0 defeat at Birmingham remained in the Chelsea side, with Ancelotti bringing six of the substitutes into the starting line-up, handing a first senior start to 17-year-old midfielder Josh McEachran.
The youngsters took time to find their feet and were given a wake-up call as the visitors took a shock lead. Zilina captain Robert Jez was allowed the time and space to exchange passes with Bello in a central position and work an opening for his midfield partner to poke the ball past Ross Turnbull from the edge of the box.
Buoyed by that surprise opener, Bello tried his luck again with a long-range effort which was easily saved by Turnbull.
Sturridge worked hardest to get Chelsea back in the game and was found by Malouda down the right before cutting inside and firing narrowly wide.
Chelsea registered their first effort on target on the half-hour mark as Drogba directed a tame header straight at Martin Dubravka.
But the hosts had another scare moments later as Tomas Majtan burst inside Patrick van Aanholt and tested keeper Turnbull from a tight angle.
Chelsea then dominated, though, as Sturridge forced a decent save from Dubravka after again cutting in from the right while Malouda headed straight at the visiting keeper from Drogba's cross.
Malouda and Sturridge then fired over before Malouda's long-range strike was deflected wide with Dubravka stranded.
Gael Kakuta made way at the interval for Salomon Kalou, who immediately fired wide as Chelsea piled on the pressure, and the Blues were level after Zilina failed to clear a poor Kalou cross and Sturridge was on hand to sidefoot home at the far post.
Drogba headed straight at Dubravka as Chelsea turned up the heat while Ramires hit a 25-yard effort narrowly wide. Dubravka then turned a dipping Drogba free-kick onto a post before Branislav Ivanovic headed over from the ball back in.
Sturridge clipped a close-range effort just beyond the far post heading into the closing stages while Van Aanholt smashed a 20-yard effort flush against the far post.
Drogba blazed over after a clever ball by McEachran into the Zilina box. The Ivory Coast star then headed over from Malouda's cross and the France captain fired into the side-netting moments later from Drogba's lay-off.But the Blues stayed on course to become the first English side to finish the group stage with a 100% record as late substitute Nicolas Anelka chipped the ball in from the left and Drogba headed down for Malouda to turn in the winner from close range.
|Chelsea||Team Statistics||MSK Zilina|
|0||1st Half Goals||1|
|10||Shots on Target||5|
|13||Shots off Target||0|