Wednesday 17 January 2018

Chelsea flattered by late flourish as Mata adds gloss

NORDSJAELLAND 0
CHELSEA 4

Chelsea's Juan Mata. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea's Juan Mata. Photo: Reuters

Jeremy Wilson

There was no Danish fairytale in Copenhagen -- just the familiar and rather more prosaic story of relentless Chelsea efficiency.

Against a team whose players earn less in a year than John Terry or Fernando Torres are paid in a week, Chelsea delivered a resounding 4-0 victory that places them at the summit of Champions League Group E.

Three goals in the last 11 minutes did actually disguise a largely lacklustre performance, but, as has so often been the case under Roberto di Matteo, the result was what really mattered.

A draw at Stamford Bridge last month against Juventus had placed considerable significance on dispatching Nordsjaelland and, despite a prolonged second-half wobble, a first away win in the Champions League group phase for two years was duly secured.

In his team selection, Di Matteo again underlined that the days of Jose Mourinho's Chelsea "untouchables" are long gone. On Saturday, it was Frank Lampard consigned to the bench and last night it was Terry who had to be content with a place among the subs.

Yes, David Luiz and Gary Cahill must soon get accustomed to playing together if Terry's four-match ban is upheld, but it still partially weakened Chelsea defensively for a match Di Matteo regarded as pivotal to their Champions League defence.

Nordsjaelland were only formed 21 years ago, they are based in a town of just 18,000 people and were making their home Champions League debut. A relatively modest support-base is evident in their 10,000-capacity ground and, having opted to play their Champions League matches at Denmark's 38,000-seat national stadium, it was clear that many of the locals had actually come to support the reigning European champions.

Chelsea began strongly in front of their considerable Scandinavian fan base and should have taken the lead after only four minutes.

Oscar's quick feet and vision were soon evident as he drifted into space behind Nordsjaelland's defence and turned to chip his cross towards the far post. It was perfectly weighted, the ball evading Jesper Hansen in Nordsjaelland's goal but was somehow headed against the post by Victor Moses from inside the six-yard box.

Lampard had again started as one of the two holding midfielders in Di Matteo's preferred 4-2-3-1 formation but was still able to break forward constantly, and then shot narrowly over from the edge of the penalty area.

Torres quickly fed Lampard, who split the defence for Juan Mata. On this occasion, the chance fell to arguably Chelsea's coolest finisher and Mata calmly side-footed his finish for his third goal in three games.

Sporadic

Nordsjaelland were carrying a sporadic goal threat but, to their credit, never compromised on their free-flowing and passing style. Joshua John was particularly threatening down the right and it required a wonderful first-half interception from Ashley Cole to deny Kasper Lorentzen from his cross.

The second half soon settled into the same pattern. John again evaded Branislav Ivanovic down the right but his low shot was drilled just inches outside Petr Cech's near-post. Jores Okore then delivered a perfect cross to Mikkel Beckmann, whose looping header was guided over Cech but onto the top of the goal-netting.

In an attempt to disrupt Nordsjaelland's control of possession, Di Matteo replaced Moses with Eden Hazard but still Chelsea found themselves pinned back.

After so many chances, it was inevitable that Nordsjealland's profligacy should be punished and Luiz duly doubled the lead with a delightful free-kick. A somewhat unmerited gloss, was added to the scoreline in the final 10 minutes when Mata and then Ramires punished Nordsjaelland's obvious fatigue to score past Hansen. (©The Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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