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Blues too strong for Spartak Moscow
19 Oct 2010 - 19:50:05
Chelsea secured a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Spartak Moscow in testing conditions in the Russian capital to go clear at the summit of Champions League Group F.
The damage was inflicted in the first half as Yuri Zhirkov returned to his homeland to score his first goal in Chelsea colours with a left-footed rocket before Nicolas Anelka sprung the offside trap to slot past goalkeeper Andriy Dykan.
At the site where the Londoners cruelly lost out to Manchester United on penalties in the 2008 Champions League Final, Carlo Ancelotti's side made a confident start as they looked to exorcise the ghost of two years ago.
But it was Spartak who forged the first real chance as Dmitri Kombarov picked up a loose ball in the area only to fire over the top of Peter Cech's goal when well placed.
Soares Morais Welliton was then denied by the towering shot-stopper at the near post after the striker spun Branislav Ivanovic with some ease.
On-song winger Florent Malouda fired narrowly wide on his weaker right foot at the other end and he was then thwarted by a fine challenge by Marek Suchy as the Frenchman clicked through the gears.
Chelsea's dominance finally paid off midway through the opening half when a long ball aimed at Anelka was headed into Zhirkov's path and he unleashed a sensational volley that flew into the far top corner, leaving Dykan between the sticks with little chance.
Anelka probably should have doubled the lead when sloppy Spartak defending allowed him to storm clear, but a bad first touch halted his run, but he made amends just two minutes before the break.
He was played in behind the static defence and, with Dykan spreading himself, Anelka coolly slotted home from inside the area.
Spartak manager Valeri Karpin's half-time team-talk yielded an immediate response as they created a number of chances.
However, Ferreira da Silva Ari, Aiden McGeady, Welliton and McGeady again couldn't find a way through Cech, who was warming to the task in plummeting conditions.
Barreto da Silva Ibson was the next to be denied, his fine half-volley tipped over by the acrobatic Czech Republic star.
With the hosts committing more men forward, Chelsea should have extended their lead when Salomon Kalou's cutback was dummied by Anelka, but Michael Essien slotted wide after a flowing counter-attack.
The Russian giants continued to huff and puff, but Chelsea's backline, led once again by the inspired John Terry, comfortably played out the final moments with relative ease.
With three wins from three, Chelsea look set to book their place in the knockout stage when the two sides meet again at Stamford Bridge in a fortnight's time.
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