Two goals from Didier Drogba
steered Chelsea to an emphatic 3-0 victory over Valencia and top
spot in Group E at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday as they moved into
the Champions League knockout phase for the ninth consecutive
An inspired performance by Drogba and a goal from midfielder
Ramires gave the Londoners the points they needed to advance and
allowed coach Andre Villas-Boas the opportunity to hit back at
the critics who suggested his position could be in jeopardy if
Chelsea had been eliminated.
Defeat or a score draw would have consigned Chelsea to third
place below Valencia but already-qualified Bayer Leverkusen's
1-1 draw away to Racing Genk meant they finished top with 11
points ahead of Leverkusen (10), Valencia (8) and Genk (3).
"It has been over the top," Villas-Boas, whose side have
fallen outside the top four in the Premier League and who face
leaders Manchester City next week, told reporters of the recent
scrutiny of his side's dip in form.
"It is unfortunate for you guys [the media] because you have
to report on a brilliant win for Chelsea.
"There is only one team in the country at the moment and
that is Manchester City. I hope they qualify for the Champions
League knockout stage but the attitude to them is if they
qualify they qualify, if they don't they don't - we don't get
"This is a continuous persecution, it is aggression towards
Chelsea were on their way once Drogba, who could well be in
his final season at Stamford Bridge, fired his side ahead after
three minutes and although Valencia occasionally threatened,
Chelsea never remotely lost control.
In between scoring the first and third goals, Drogba made
one for Ramires after 22 minutes which more or less settled the
match and eased the nerves of all concerned with Chelsea who
were facing elimination from the competition before Christmas
after dropping points in their last two away matches.
Drogba's early goal came after Daniel Sturridge's long cross
from the right was pulled back by ex-Valencia winger Juan Mata.
The pass found the muscular Ivorian who switched the ball
from his right to left foot and fired wide of goalkeeper Diego
Alves who got a hand to the ball but could not stop it going in.
Defensive hesitation by Victor Ruiz 15 minutes later allowed
Ramires to poke in the second after a surging run from Drogba
and Chelsea completed one of their best performances of the
season with Drogba powering through and finishing skillfully for
the third after 74 minutes.
"It helped that we scored so early in the game, it gave us a
boost of confidence," Villas-Boas said.
"To finish top of the group is excellent, no one gave us a
chance, but its a test of human character and a great win for
the Chelsea players who have got respect we don't normally get
and gave everybody a slap in the face."
Valencia, who hammered Genk 7-0 in their last Champions
League match, would have qualified with a win or score draw but
though they had plenty of possession either side of halftime,
they rarely threatened to score, although Jordi Alba hit the
outside of the post soon after Chelsea went ahead.
Valencia still played some attractive football but with
little end product although goalkeeper Petr Cech was forced into
a making a superb save to deny David Albelda who smacked in a
sizzling long range effort after 10 minutes.
Sofiane Feghouli also brought a good save from Cech in the
second half but they now will have to re-align their sights on
the Europa League.
"We have to focus on the Europa League now, its a new
objective and we will just have to keep fighting," said Valencia
coach Unai Emery. "We did what we could, we had a lot of
possesion, we created four good chances tonight, but we have to
accept we were well beaten."
Chelsea's good night was completed when news came through of
Leverkusen's draw at Genk which sent the Londoners through as
group winners meaning they will avoid being drawn against the
likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, Inter Milan and Bayern Munich
in the round of 16.
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