Chelsea hit turbo after stuttering beginning
Nordsjaelland 0 Chelsea 4:CHELSEA ARE the reigning European champions, a feat achieved on foreign soil in Munich back in May, but there was something strangely unfamiliar about all this. A team who has spluttered too often away from Stamford Bridge in this competition over recent years mustered a victory to remind Group E of their qualities. This may have been unconvincing for long periods, but it ended feeling emphatic.
If penalty shoot-outs are ignored only Benfica had been beaten in an away fixture, in last term’s quarter-final, since Carlo Ancelotti’s team won here in Copenhagen two seasons ago. Ramires’s tap-in from Oscar’s centre as full-time approached added gloss to the scoreline, given the team’s toils at times, but all resistance had long since evaporated. Chelsea tend to flourish in Denmark, this finishing a thrashing.
This had been a grand occasion for Nordsjaelland to debut at home in the Champions League proper, albeit with the fixture staged at the national Parken Stadium some 15 miles from their own, distinctly cosier Farum Park.
Roberto Di Matteo was at pains to warn his team against complacency in the build-up. By the interval he could rest easier, a lead established, even if there had been awkward moments en route.
The ground’s adopted home side had been nervy at first, their play streaked with panic whenever Chelsea’s passing rhythm was upbeat, but they managed to recover some measure of composure. Joshua John was a nuisance presence down their left, eking space from Branislav Ivanovic. It was the loanee from Twente whose centre reached Kasper Lorentzen in front of goal, only for Ashley Cole to execute a fine recovering challenge.
This was a Chelsea rearguard without John Terry, the centre-half rested, and serenaded raucously by the travelling supporters as he warmed up on the touchline. The 31-year-old’s legal team expect to receive the FA independent regulatory commission’s written reasoning behind their decision to ban him for four games, and fine him, within the next 24 hours. Terry will then have 14 days to decide whether to appeal.
Nordsjaelland were fragile at the back, the early exchanges having suggested a trouncing-in-waiting. Victor Moses, in his first involvement in this competition, might have scored within four minutes as he leapt to meet Oscar’s chipped cross, only for Jores Okore to spring and head against his own post. The centre-half was left bloodied and bandaged, though others appeared dizzier. Ivan Runje’s mistake sent Fernando Torres through on goal, the Spaniard denied by Jesper Hansen with the goalkeeper repeating that trick before the break.
Yet, by then, the visitors had edged ahead courtesy of Torres’s dispossession of a dawdling Enoch Adu in central midfield. The striker shifted the ball on to Frank Lampard who touched it wide for the marauding Juan Mata, the untracked midfielder duly converting with ease on the gallop.
The Spaniard, such a clever player forever drifting across the front line, has been irrepressible since he was granted a short break during last month’s international window. His batteries recharged, he is proving the scourge of defences at home and abroad yet again. However, the Danes did not wilt.
John skimmed a shot into the side-netting with Petr Cech scrambling, Nicolai Stokholm forced the goalkeeper to push another attempt clear, while Mikkel Beckmann might have done better with a free header, looped on to the roof of the net.
When Jones’s curled attempt was touched on to the post by the diving Cech, with the substitute Mario Ticinovic’s follow-up well blocked, the pangs of anxiety were all too obvious on the visitors’ bench.
Oscar might have eased the nerves, finishing smartly only for the Croatian official to call play back for a foul by Runje on Ramires. David Luiz’s free-kick moments later, careering in off the near post with Hansen static and aghast, provided proper relief.
Mata’s second, slid home after he emerged from the clutter on the edge of the area, was registered against opponents who knew they were beaten.
FC NORDSJAELLAND: Hansen, Parkhurst, Okore, Runje, Mtiliga, Adu, Stokholm, Lorentzen (Laudrup 84), Nordstrand (Ticinovic 65), John, Beckmann (Christensen 75). Subs not used: Villadsen, Christiansen, Gundelach, Petry Andersen. Booked: Runje.
CHELSEA: Cech, Ivanovic, Luiz, Cahill, Cole, Ramires, Lampard, Moses (Hazard 65), Oscar, Mata (Mikel 83),Torres. Subs not used: Turnbull, Romeu, Terry, Azpilicueta, Bertrand.
Referee: Marijo Strahonja (Croatia).