Chelsea's Special Victory
Chelsea Through As Group Winners
Chelsea have progressed to the next round of the Champions League as Group E winners after their 3-0 victory over Valencia at Stamford Bridge.
Defeat in the Blues' last Champions League outing at Bayer Leverkusen meant Chelsea faced a range of mathematical scenarios on Tuesday, but one guarantee was that victory for Valencia would end their adventure. The Spaniards arrived off the back of a 7-0 win over Genk, but this time it was Chelsea who showed a clinical edge through a Didier Drogba brace either side of a first-half strike from Ramires.
Andre Villas-Boas opted to leave out Frank Lampard from the side that beat Newcastle 3-0 at the weekend, preferring Raul Meireles, and the Portuguese fired an early warning to the visitors when curling an effort goalwards inside two minutes. Valencia failed to wake from their slumber as they fell behind moments later. The goal was simple in its creation, Juan Mata laying the ball back for Drogba, who faked to curl with his right foot before driving into the far corner with his left for Chelsea's fastest ever Champions League goal in the third minute.
It was the start Villas-Boas had craved, but almost immediately Chelsea came close to tossing it away as Jordi Alba snuck into the inside-left channel, slamming the ball against Petr Cech's near post. Valencia's threat was evident and moments later Cech was forced into a world class save as he clawed David Albelda's 25-yard rocket out of the top corner.
With Valencia enjoying the lion's share of the possession, Chelsea needed a second, and it duly arrived midway through the first half when Victor Ruiz inexplicably allowed Ramires to run onto Drogba's pass and the Brazilian slid the ball past Diego Alves.
Drogba and Daniel Sturridge then wasted glorious chances to kill the game off in the second half, but it mattered little as Drogba finally put the game to bed with his second, using the outside of his boot to beat Alves with 14 minutes remaining.
Bayer Leverkusen went into the evening's games as group leaders but threw away top spot after they could only draw 1-1 with Genk. The home side took a shock lead against the run of play when Jelle Vossen found the net on the half-hour, and the Bundesliga side could only find one in reply through Eren Derdiyok as Chelsea were gifted the easier draw in the last 16.
Arsenal's fortunes were already decided as they headed to Olympiakos as Group F winners, so it was little surprise that a second-string side fell to a 3-1 defeat in Greece.
A mix-up between Sebastien Squillaci and Johan Djourou allowed Rafik Djebbour to round Lukasz Fabianski for the opening goal, and Fabianski's night was soon over as a collision prompted the arrival of Vito Mannone. The replacement goalkeeper then produced a calamitous mistake to gift David Fuster a second for the Greeks.
Wenger lost another player to injury in the second period as Andre Santos was stretchered off, and even though Arsenal narrowed the deficit through a sweet Yossi Benayoun volley, they never deserved parity after an error-ridden display - conceding a third to Francois Modesto.
The victory was not enough for Olympiakos to progress to the knockout rounds, though, as Marseille came from two goals down to beat Borussia Dortmund 3-2 in dramatic fashion in Germany.
Goals from Jakub Blaszczykowski and Mats Hummels had put the hosts in control, but Loic Remy pulled a goal back just before the break and Andre Ayew levelled on 85 minutes. Two minutes later, Mathieu Valbuena produced a magical goal to send Marseille through in second and condemn Olympiakos to the Europa League.
Group H winners Barcelona warmed up for the weekend's Clasico against Real Madrid with a 4-0 stroll against BATE Borisov at Camp Nou. Barca boss Pep Guardiola rested almost all of his top names, but the European champions still picked up the three points thanks to a goal apiece from Sergi Roberto and Martin Montoya plus a Pedro brace.
AC Milan join Barca in the last 16, and they ended their group stage campaign with a 2-2 draw against Viktoria Plzen.
Alexandre Pato and Robinho put Milan ahead with two goals in a minute shortly after the break, but Plzen hit back through two goals in the last five minutes from David Bystron and Michal Duris. The results meant Plzen remained in third place and progress to the Europa League.
In Group G, Zenit St Petersburg will join Apoel Nicosia in the knockout rounds after they drew 0-0 with FC Porto in Portugal. A point kept Zenit marginally ahead of Porto in the group, while the already-qualified Apoel finished off with a 2-0 defeat against Shakhtar Donetsk, with Luiz Adriano and Yevgen Seleznev grabbing the goals.
( Source : soccernet.espn.go.com )