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 Italian giants- 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.
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 in 1991, 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 and should have taken the lead inside 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.
Nordsjaelland were carrying a goal threat but, 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 then sent on Hazard for the disappointing Moses but it was from a counter-attack that the relief of a second goal came. Torres, fighting hard for everything, was fouled 20 yards out and Luiz hit a free-kick that Cristiano Ronaldo would have admired, dipping over the wall and brushing a post on its way in. That was in the 79th minute and it was very harsh on the home side to concede twice more, well worked as the goals were. Mata wriggled through for the third, giving him four in three games, and Ramires was neatly set up by Oscar to score past Hansen.
“We played a tight game for 75 minutes, then collapsed. It was a fair summary.” -Kasper Hjulmand (FC Nordsjaelland Manager)
- FC Nordsjaelland v Chelsea (bbc.co.uk)
- 5 Things Chelsea Victory over Nordsjaelland Taught Us (bleacherreport.com)
- FC Nordsjælland 0-4 Chelea Match Round-Up (roundupproject.com)
- Late goals give Chelsea cushion (fifa.com)