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Spartak Moscow 0-2 Chelsea : Credit to Carlo. Job done.

I had written in my match preview that with our injury problems and with players missing that I would be happy for Chelsea to grab a poin...

MOSCOW, RUSSIA. OCTOBER 19, 2010. Spartak s Aiden McGeady (L) and FC Chelsea s Yuri Zhirkov challenge for the ball during a UEFA Champions League game Spartak Moscow vs. Chelsea. (Photo ITAR-TASS / Alexei Filippov) Photo via Newscom


I had written in my match preview that with our injury problems and with players missing that I would be happy for Chelsea to grab a point and to head home asap. I had even wondered whether or not Carlo would play the youngsters. Once we heard the team news I changed my mind. Carlo had decided to field his best eleven players available to him and we could really go into the game to win this one.

We started off ok but I think it's fair to say that Spartak wasted a chance to score when they fired over the bar from 10 yards. This was followed by Cech making a save with his feet a his near post after a neat turn and volley by their forward was heading into the bottom corner.

Chelsea rode an early storm and to be fair went toe to toe with the Russians. We created our own half chances through Kalou who's ambitious attempt flew over the bar and another long range effort that didn't test the keeper.

However none of us could see what was about to happen. Don't get me wrong, Chelsea were having at this stage a majority of possession but hadn't really tested their keeper by forcing him to make a save. When Mikel picked the ball up and played a hopeful ball up to Anelka who looked to be crowded out by defenders who headed the ball clear and away from their box, you looked for us to regain possession and knock it about to look for an opening. Yuri Zhirkov had other ideas.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA. OCTOBER 19, 2010. FC Chelsea s Yuri Zhirkov celebrates after scoring a goal, with team-mate Florent Malouda during a UEFA Champions League game Spartak Moscow vs. Chelsea. (Photo ITAR-TASS / Alexei Filippov)  Photo via Newscom


As the ball bounced on the plastic pitch 25-30 yards out he had only one thing in mind. With that, he sprinted onto the ball and as he came under pressure from the defender, unleashed an unstoppable volley into the net that was like a rocket. The keeper had no chance. It was Zhirkov's first goal for Chelsea and what a time to score on his return to the stadium he used to play in for CSKA. Great strike and Chelsea were 1-0 up.

Soon after the crowd became quiet and Chelsea looked to have settled down. Once again Spartak looked to create chances in and around our box but met a blue wall again in John Terry and Ivanovic who both had outstanding games. Any chances they had were long shots from outside the box either high and wide or easy for Cech to gather.

It was Chelsea who created the better chances. Anelka was onto a back pass like a flash and rather than take the selfish option chose to pass the ball square. He also was through on goal and took a dodgy touch (possibly because of the pitch) and the keeper came out and blocked his attempt to flick it passed him and the chance had gone.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA. OCTOBER 19, 2010. Spartak s Sergei Parshivlyuk (red) and FC Chelsea s Nicolas Anelka challenge for the ball during a UEFA Champions League game Spartak Moscow vs. Chelsea. (Photo ITAR-TASS / Alexei Filippov) Photo via Newscom


Anelka wasn't to be denied and when Spartak's possession broke down on the half way line, Mikel fed Essien and his burst of pace took him free of two midfielders in the centre circle, he looked up and found Anelka unmarked. Anelka took a touch into the box and came under pressure from the defender tracking back so took a touch back on himself to give him another option, the defender went the other way and Anelka had time to side foot the ball into the bottom corner under the defender and keepers efforts to stop him scoring. A class finish from Anelka again as Chelsea saw out the remainder of the first half. 2-0 Chelsea.

Second half and to their credit Spartak came out all guns blazing and had chances to score once more. Cech tipped another long range effort over the bar not once but twice. Cech parried more long range feeble efforts from the Russians as that's what our back line had restricted them to. When Spartak did get through Cech was there again saving easily with his body behind the ball or out like a flash to make a clearance after a dodgy back pass.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA. OCTOBER 19, 2010. Spartak s Welliton (red) and FC Chelsea s Branislav Ivanovic challenge for the ball during a UEFA Champions League game Spartak Moscow vs. Chelsea. (Photo ITAR-TASS / Alexei Filippov) Photo via Newscom


Chelsea were standing firm once more, soaking up the pressure the Russians were putting us under but let's be honest they never looked like scoring. Chelsea on the counter attack had more chances to score through Anelka once again as he made a run inside the box and rather than slide the ball under the onrushing keeper, decided to square the ball to no one and finally through Essien after some great work from Kalou saw him skip past two players and square the ball back towards Anelka. Anelka dummied the ball into the path of Essien and his turn and shot went inches wide when it looked easier to score.

In the latter stages of the game it was good to see Kalou come off after his injury problems and McEachran on again. Young Josh didn't get a lot of touches but the ones he did counted. He spun away from two players and gave it simple and put a great block tackle on their midfielder coming forward with the ball on the edge of the box. He won the ball and laid it off just as you can imagine Carlo asking him to do.

Gael Kakuta came on for Malouda and never really got into the game or had a chance to effect the game much. Cole came off with minutes to go and Van Aanholt came on, within a minute or so he put a block on the impressive McGeady as he looked to get passed him inside the box. JT applauded and Chelsea stood firm and saw the game out 2-0 with a great three points that sees us top the group with nine points and three wins out of three.

I have to say everyone played well. For me however four players were outstanding on the night and deserve alot of credit. JT and Ivanovic at the back played fantastic with our skipper just winning the plaudits. His positional sense is fantastic and he made some important blocks and interceptions at important moments of the game.

I thought Zhirkov played really well, took his goal fantastic and will be pleased to get 90 minutes. He looked busy all game and with Cole and Malouda down our left hand side being all natural left footed players, provided quality in possession which was important tonight.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA. OCTOBER 19, 2010. FC Chelsea s Florent Malouda, Spartak s goalie Andrei (Andriy) Dikan and his team-mate Yevgeni Makeev (L-R) in action during a UEFA Champions League game Spartak Moscow vs. Chelsea. (Photo ITAR-TASS / Alexei Filippov) Photo via Newscom


I thought Anelka led the line superbly. When Didier isn't there is a massive void to fill and you can tell Anelka loves it. He provides Chelsea with a different option and his running off the ball was fantastic. He is always busy, very rarely gives the ball away and in light of Drogba and Alex's absence, won important headers in his own box defending free kicks and corners and should be applauded for it.

Like I say however, everyone played their part in what was to be a vital win in the group and puts us in the box seat with just another point needed to qualify for the round of 16. It was a very professional performance again by Chelsea and demonstrated that we can play the way we did with important players missing.

MOSCOW, RUSSIA. OCTOBER 19, 2010. Chelsea FC manager Carlo Ancelotti watches a UEFA Champions League game Spartak Moscow vs. Chelsea. (Photo ITAR-TASS / Alexei Filippov) Photo via Newscom


There is one person I haven't mentioned who did really well tonight and that was Carlo Ancelotti. I have said credit to Carlo in the title of this post and I really think he deserves it. He had a choice and an opportunity to rest players, to think of their situations and whether or not to risk them in the game (Cole and Essien).

It could have been so easy to go there and set our stall out to defend our goal and rely on a set piece or something to see if we could hold out for a draw or nick a win but no, Carlo realises how important it is to finish top of the group to have a chance of a decent draw in the next round so decided to pick his best available players.

It was his decision to play them and their performance on the night that deserve real credit. Job done, three points and top of the group with three games to play. Now let's get this lot wrapped up in cotton wool until we take on Wolves on Saturday.

KTBFFH.

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