Drogba downs Valencia
Didier Drogba scored a superb winner in the second half as Chelsea beat Valencia 2-1 in the Champions League.
Last Updated: 03/10/07 11:02pm
Didier Drogba scored a superb winner in the second half as Chelsea beat Valencia 2-1 in the UEFA Champions League.
The Blues had got off to a slow start by only drawing at home against Rosenborg but claimed their first European victory under Avram Grant by winning at the Mestalla for the second successive season.
Valencia went ahead inside the opening 10 minutes when David Villa outran John Terry, who played despite surgery on a broken cheekbone at the weekend, and smartly slotted home from 12 yards out.
However, the Spanish side's lead lasted until just the 21st minute as Joe Cole had the simplest of tap-ins from a few yards out after good work from Florent Malouda.
Drogba netted with 20 minutes remaining but Cole's brilliant pass with the outside of the boot from inside his own half made the goal as he put the ball in the perfect spot for the Ivorian who fired past Timo Hildebrand.
Chelsea then hung on with some last-gasp defending towards the end to pick up their first three points of the new Champions League campaign.
Playing in their first European game since the departure of Jose Mourinho, who had led the club into two Champions League semi-finals in three years, Chelsea received a pre-match boost when they were able to call on Terry, Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Essien for the fixture.
Terry was wearing a protective mask after suffering a broken cheekbone against Fulham at the weekend, while defensive partner Carvalho was making his first appearance since the opening week of the season.
Midfield powerhouse Essien, whose last-gasp goal here last season helped Chelsea eliminate Valencia, was also included in Grant's starting line-up after shaking off a calf problem.
Spain international David Silva gave a warning of what was to come as he fired a decent opening wide in the first couple of minutes - but Chelsea were not so fortunate with Valencia's next foray forward as Villa gave the hosts a ninth minute lead.
The prolific hit-man took advantage of a ricochet off Essien that saw the ball break into the Chelsea area, speeding beyond a static-looking Blues defence before clinically slotting the ball past Petr Cech.
Chelsea responded with an effort from Drogba that was deflected just wide, while Carvalho will probably feel he should have done better after getting his head to the resulting corner.
Joaquin almost threaded his shot through Cech's legs, with the giant goalkeeper just managing to save his side.
Almost immediately, Chelsea went down the other end and stunned the home crowd by equalising in the 21st minute.
Malouda and Drogba combined well down the left and the Frenchman, having broken into the area, fired in a low cross that was turned home by Joe Cole, under pressure from Emiliano Moretti.
Villa saw a couple of efforts flash just wide of Cech's goal but Grant's men weathered that storm and Valencia found it much more difficult to get in behind the visitors' backline in the lead-up to half-time, which saw the teams go in level at 1-1.
Chelsea started the second half much more confidently than the first but Valencia thought they had reclaimed the lead in the 56th minute when Villa smashed the ball in from just inside the area - but an offside flag came to the Blues' rescue.
With his side struggling to match their dominance of the first half, Valencia coach Quique Sanchez Flores sent on giant Serbian striker Nikola Zigic for Fernando Morientes in the 69th minute.
Zigic had been on the pitch only a matter of moments when Chelsea took the lead through Drogba in the 71st minute.
Joe Cole threaded a brilliant pass through and Drogba outpaced marker Raul Albiol before thundering a left-footed shot past Timo Hildebrand in the home goal.
Silva fired in a dipping shot that had the crowd interested, if not Cech, who watched the ball sail over his crossbar.
With the game slipping away, Valencia started pushing more men forward and Marchena had a shooting chance in the 87th minute following a miskick from team-mate Villa.
Marchena's effort from the edge of the area was much better than his earlier one - which went well wide of goal - but it still failed to hit the target as Chelsea were able to breath a sigh of relief.
Valencia laid siege to the Chelsea goal in the dying seconds, but Ruben Baraja fired straight at Cech with the final touch of the match as the Blues held on for a welcome victory.
|1||1st Half Goals||1|
|4||Shots on Target||3|
|9||Shots off Target||5|