Chelsea’s added a trip to Russia to their growing fixture list after managing to overturn their first-leg deficit against Romanian outfits Steaua Bucharest.
Juan Mata had levelled the tie before Chiriches poked home on the stroke of half-time. John Terry rose highest to mean Chelsea needed just one more to prevail, and Fernando Torres of all people scored that decisive goal, and ties against Rubin Kazan await.
The turnaround was tasked to Oscar, Mata and Hazard, rarely used as a trio anymore due to the emergence of Moses and Ramires as wingers, but Lampard was the one to make way as the Brazilian slotted into a deeper defensive role. Mikel was also responsible for shutting up shop and making sure Steaua were kept at bay to give Chelsea the best possible chance of prevailing.
And though they were settled in the stages, it appeared Mikel himself not only wanted to keep the scoreline manageable, but also have a go at restoring parity. The Nigerian has not scored for over 250 games for Chelsea, and he was not going to break that duck here, with his shot charged down.
The same man then showed defensive deficiencies, lacking in concentration as Steaua looked to double their aggregate advantage. Chelsea had Cech to thank in denying first Rusescu and then skipper Bourceanu.
Divine footwork was the making of the Chelsea goal. Mata cut infield and found Ramires, who rounded two defenders before setting up Mata, who continued his run. One hold and swivel of his man-marker presented the Spaniard with a chance at beating the goalkeeper, and despite a deflection, the ball crept in with the aid of the inside of the post.
Any goal is a goal, however it comes, and Mata and Hazard worked up more magic, and though the Belgian managed to get the ball out of his feet majestically, Tatarusanu was up to task.
A quick succession of corners ended the first half, but there was a goal yielded out of the latter. Zonal marking caused confusion as Ramires and Torres both went near-post to block the ball, and Chiriches rifled into the roof of the net from close range. It was a sucker-punch for Chelsea, in a match they had dominated. In the second half, they needed to score two more.
And one of those came 13 minutes after the restart. Juan Mata’s floated free-kick was not even aimed for the posse of players huddled in the centre, but for John Terry, who made room for himself and in acres of space, deceptively headed powerfully and, again with a hand from the post, the ball crept in.
Torres’ moment was to come 20 minutes to go. Mata’s pass to Hazard was cunningly left by the Belgian, and when the ball rolled onto the Spaniard, the striker opted to use his weaker left foot. No lacking in quality, however, as the ball nestled in the bottom corner.
It was to be an eventful final few moments for the newly energetic front man. A barge in the box was not deemed sufficient to warrant a penalty, before the former Liverpool man suffered a nosebleed after a kick to the nose for his troubles.
Torres’ evening was to get more excruciating when Hazard won a penalty to seal the game for the Blues. Even if Lampard was not present, Hazard, Mata, Oscar and Luiz all were, but Torres was ahead of the pack, and even he could not believe his own luck as his shot cannoned back off the crossbar. One step forward, two steps back it seems for the Spaniard, but thankfully, it made little difference to the end result.
- Chelsea 3-1 Steaua (3-2 on agg) (guardian.co.uk)
- Steaua Bucharest 1-0 Chelsea (thechelseachronicle.wordpress.com)
- Chelsea 3 Steaua Bucharest 1 agg 4-4: match report (telegraph.co.uk)