x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Chelsea banish the ghosts of 2008 with win in Moscow

Chelsea banished the memories of their 2008 Champions League final defeat in the Luzhniki Stadium with an impressive victory over Spartak Moscow last night.

Chelsea banished the memories of their 2008 Champions League final defeat in the Luzhniki Stadium with an impressive victory over Spartak Moscow last night.

First-half goals from Yury Zhirkov and Nicolas Anelka gave Chelsea the momentum to secure a win that now puts them three points clear at the top of Group F.

Victory over the Moscow side at Stamford Bridge in a fortnight's time will guarantee the English champions a first-place finish in the group.

Chelsea, who lost on penalties to Manchester United in a heartbreaking final two years ago, returned in style to kill off the challenge from the group's only other unbeaten side. Chelsea went in front in the 23rd minute when John Obi Mikel's long ball was knocked into the path of Zhirkov, who fired a 25-yard volley into the roof of the net.

It was Zhirkov's first goal for the club and arrived just hours after the former CSKA Moscow man had pledged to live up to his £18 million (Dh103.9m) price tag.

Michael Essien had the chance to make it two in the 31st minute but he elected to cross the ball instead of shooting from an acute angle.

Chelsea were dominating the game in midfield and the home side had little to show for their efforts.

Anelka squandered a chance in the 37th minute when he latched onto a poor pass and ran clear of the Spartak defence.

But the former France international, usually so clinical in one-on-one situations with the goalkeeper, lost control of the ball and Andrei Dykan was able to prevent Chelsea adding to their lead.

However, Anelka made up for his mistake with a second goal for Carlo Ancelotti's side in the 43rd minute.

The Chelsea striker collected the ball after a driving run by Essien and then turned the Spartak defence inside out before placing a low shot under Dykan to score his 50th goal for the club.

Spartak began the second half in much brighter fashion but Ari sent the ball high over the bar from the edge of the penalty area in the 47th minute.

The Russian side had little guile in attack and Chelsea were more than comfortable to let the home side have possession in the midfield and they looked solid at the back with John Terry, the captain who missed the crucial penalty two years ago, in outstanding form.

In the 72nd minute, Essien shot wide from 10 yards when a goal seemed certain.

But Spartak continued to drive forward and Petr Cech dived low to claim a long-range effort from Ferreira Ari in the 81st minute.

Chelsea held on to maintain their perfect record in Europe this season.

* Press Association