Chelsea power tells in the end against Zilina


Tue, 23 Nov 21:58:00 2010

* Chelsea seal top spot in Group F

* English champions come from behind to beat Zilina (adds details, quote)

Chelsea survived a scare from MSK Zilina before beating the Slovak champions 2-1 with a late goal from Florent Malouda to clinch first place in Champions League Group F at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.

The English champions, in something of a domestic crisis following three defeats in their last four Premier League games, fell behind after 19 minutes before rallying for the points with second-half strikes from Daniel Sturridge and Malouda, who struck the winner four minutes from time.

"We reached our aim. We won the group. It was a very good reaction in the second half. The performance was good," Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti told Sky Sports television.

Zilina, who had lost their opening four group matches, took a shock lead through Babatounde Bello after an exchange of passes with Robert Jez, planting a shot wide of stand-in goalkeeper Ross Turnbull.

Although they dominated most of the play, Chelsea had to wait until the 51st minute before the lively Sturridge equalised with a close-range angled shot.

With qualification to the last 16 already assured, Chelsea needed only a point to secure first place and although they achieved that and laid siege to Zilina's goal for most of the second half, this was a far from memorable performance.

Ancelotti, whose future at the club has been clouded by uncertainty this week, made six changes to the side that lost 1-0 at Birmingham City on Saturday either because of injuries or because he wanted to rest senior players.

As a result, the unfamiliar-looking home side started sluggishly against the Slovaks who lost by a Champions League record home 7-0 scoreline to Olympique Marseille three weeks ago.

It was only after falling behind that Chelsea came to life with 17-year-old Josh McEachran, a defensive midfielder making his full debut, gradually showing some smart touches which mark him out as a great future prospect.

Sturridge was Chelsea's most dangerous attacker until he was replaced by Nicolas Anelka after 74 minutes and forced keeper Martin Dubravka into one outstanding save in the first half before finally forcing the ball past him for the equaliser after 51 minutes.

Chelsea then asserted themselves with Didier Drogba and Patrick van Aanholt both hitting the post before Malouda tapped in the late winner.


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