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Old 16th September 2009, 09:21   #1
Paul Brooks
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Default Nicolas Anelka gives Chelsea winning start against Porto

Champions League Group D
Chelsea 1

* Anelka 48

FC Porto 0

* Kevin McCarra at Stamford Bridge
* guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 15 September 2009 22.00 BST

Carlo Ancelotti, to his regret, cannot shake off his image as the impresario of the Champions League. This awkward match at least supplied him with more evidence that the tournament is full of strain and doubt, no matter who happens to be in the dug-out.

As he so often did in the past with Milan, Ancelotti simply achieved the desired result. He was not much of an orchestrator and the match approached its end with Petr Cech pulling off a good save from the substitute Silvestre Varela. Porto did not look wholly discouraged until the midfielder Fernando was sent off, for a second yellow card, in stoppage time.

Credit is due the visitors, but they were seldom forced to panic. Didier Drogba, suspended for his outburst after last season's Champions League semi-final against Barcelona, was badly missed. It is no surprise that Chelsea should pine for a man who spreads terror so liberally.

Victory was achieved, in any case, with a good goal from another striker, Nicolas Anelka. This opening to Group D felt as if it belonged to a far more advanced date in the Champions League calendar. Domestic matches in this stadium seldom keep Cech so occupied.

John Terry also had to make decisive challenges. That was a reflection of the shaky display that Chelsea gave. Passes went awry and the fragmented showing left many gaps for Porto to explore. Joe Cole, who has not played since January, is over his knee surgery and returned to the bench here, but any notion that he could have an outing had to be shelved.

This fixture was no place for a convalescent. The adjustment Ancelotti did make was to remove the attacker Salomon Kalou and introduce the more conservative Juliano Belletti. By then, Kalou had made his mark by putting Anelka through in the 48th minute. Helton saved the first effort but could not prevent the Frenchman from finding the net from an angle with the rebound.

The goal had come in a spell where Chelsea raised the tempo while also distributing the ball with some care. Their difficulties may have had their origins in the enterprise of Porto. When Jesualdo Ferreira's side came to London a year ago, they were routed 4-0 by Arsenal, but considerable improvement followed.

Last night the team reminded you that they had run Manchester United very close in last season's quarter-final, when it took a goal from Cristiano Ronaldo at Estadio do Dragao to win the match. It would be pleasing to think that a side from Portugal could once more hold its own against clubs from wealthier nations. Atlético Madrid's goalless draw at home to Apoel Nicosia will have heartened them.

Porto, after four successive domestic titles, ought to have faith in themselves, but they were still prudent. Four of their new signings were named purely as substitutes, despite the fact that the Colombian striker Falcao had found his goal-scoring rhythm in the Portuguese League.

Ferreira's team did have a settled air and there was enterprise as well. They were ready to search for goal and Cech had to save well from Hulk early in the match. The striker has an unpredictability about him as well a sense of purpose. Terry had trouble containing him, but the centre-half may also have been affected by a first-half collision that left him dazed.

Ancelotti was right in his prediction that Porto would seek to attack whenever possible. There was a balance to the game. Although Chelsea did have a desire to assert themselves, they could not lay siege for long because Porto continually took their opportunities to break.

When the moments of crisis did come in the first half, the visitors reacted well. Helton coped with efforts by Frank Lampard and there was a decisive tackle from Fucile on Kalou when it looked as if he would burst through on goal.

Chelsea found the match taxing enough for Michael Essien and Florent Malouda both to be booked early on. Essien had not seemed particularly suited to the holding role in midfield, even though his sheer physical presence ought to be a deterrent. Porto were full of hope and confidence.

Considering the absence of several experienced Chelsea players, it was no surprise to see an unchanged line-up emerge after the interval, but there was a new focus and a spurt of energy. Porto, in any case, were not allowed to regroup before Anelka had landed the critical blow.

Chelsea, with the advantage of the goal, could make this a more conservative display. Ferreira's introduction of two substitutes, including the predator Falcao, by the 64th minute confirmed that he was obliged to reshape his approach. A lapse in the Chelsea back four did give Falcao scope on the edge of the area but his attempt ran straight to Cech.

If there had been neutrals present, some members of the crowd would have been enjoying themselves. As it was, this match must have had an uncomfortable grip on Chelsea fans.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2...-chelsea-porto
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