COS contributor Darren Plant reports on Stamford Bridge outfit’s successful mission to Moscow.
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Chelsea arrived in Moscow on a mission to achieve two goals; to plant one step firmly in the knockout stages of the Champions League and to earn some kind of redemption for their loss in the Champions League final in 2008. After a 2-0 win over Spartak Moscow in the Luzhniki Stadium, it’s fair to say they will consider both goals to be emphatically accomplished.
Russia is not an easy to place to go by any means, but after a shaky opening, Chelsea stamped their authority on proceedings in such fashion that you could have been fooled they were competing against a mid-table side in the Premier League.
Spartak had their moments in the second half where they peppered Petr Cech’s goal, but after two class finishes from Nicolas Anelka and, more so, Yuri Zhirkov, the result was never really in doubt.
It was fitting for Zhirkov to net his first Chelsea goal on his return to Russia. He used to ply his trade for Spartak’s rivals, CSKA, and whilst rumours persist about a possible return to his homeland, his 25-yard volley will hopefully go some way to persuading Ancelotti he deserves a more prominent role in his starting 11.
The result was all the more impressive given that Ancelotti’s Chelsea squad is currently down to the barebones.
The former AC Milan boss simply had no option but to entrust the ten first team players he had available to him and hope they could deliver three points, which they duly did so.
But if they are not already, Chelsea will very soon be a team in transition and the reliance on having to fill their substitute bench tonight with six outfield players below the age of 20 maybe a blessing in disguise.
The likes of Anelka, Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard and Florent Malouda are already in their thirties and John Terry and Alex are not far behind – these players won’t last forever.
Rather than being anxious that the stellar period in Chelsea’s history could soon come to an end, I am excited to see the future of the club given their chance to shine and gain as much experience as they can before they begin starting games for the club.
Apart from Daniel Sturridge, the crop of youth players at Chelsea will be unknown to many football fans in England, but given the promise and maturity some have shown since joining the first-team squad, it won’t be long before they are mentioned alongside the younger players of Arsenal and Manchester United.
One player in particular is 17 year-old Josh McEachran. After making his debut in Zilina last month as a late substitute, he lit up Stamford Bridge with his second half display in the Carling Cup against Newcastle United.
That performance catapulted him onto the bench for the Manchester City match where a late cameo ensued, and tonight saw him replace Zhirkov for the final 15 minutes to impress sufficiently to add a further claim that Jack Wilshere is not the only outstanding young talent plying his trade in London.
The inclusion of the younger players is one of the many plus-points that can be drawn from the win in Russia but Spartak Moscow are not Manchester City – would Chelsea’s patched up squad be able to travel to Eastlands and bring home three points?
That’s highly debatable but Ancelotti can return to Premier League duty against Wolves on Saturday in the knowledge that he can call upon Chelsea’s youth when required and ultimately, qualification for February’s last 16 of Europe’s premier competition is all but confirmed.
<strong>Spartak Moscow 0-2 Chelsea Full Highlights</strong>
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Last edited by Mr Comfort on October 20, 2010 at 11:22 am