Chelsea victory over Valencia eases pressure on Grant
4 October 2007, VALENCIA -AFP - Chelsea's under-fire manager Avram Grant hit back at his critics who have been saying he is unable to follow in the footsteps of Jose Mourinho when his team beat Valencia 2-1 here on Wednesday.
4 October 2007
VALENCIA -AFP - Chelsea's under-fire manager Avram Grant hit back at his critics who have been saying he is unable to follow in the footsteps of Jose Mourinho when his team beat Valencia 2-1 here on Wednesday.
Chelsea produced their best football since Grant took over from the charismatic but controversial Portuguese coach two weeks ago, and probably their best this season, to throw the Champions League Group B wide open.
Valencia's David Villa opened the scoring after just nine minutes but an own goal midway through the first half by Emiliamo Moretti and a second half strike by the prolific Didier Drogba gave Chelsea a memorable win.
The result, and also the scoring sequence, was the same as the last time the two sides met in Valencia's Mestalla stadium back in March, when the occasion was a Champions League quarter-final second leg tie.
"They had only two chances to score but they found the net with both of them," reflected Valencia captain David Albelda bitterly although, in truth, Chelsea were overall the better side.
"However, Chelsea didn't surprise us by playing so well. After all, they are a big team and the club has invested heavily in good players. Now we have to move forward," added Albelda.
The hosts pressed from the start, clearly looking for revenge after last season's result, and Spanish internationl winger David Silva sent a shot skimming over the bar just a few seconds into the game.
Villa then showed just why he was last season's top Spanish scorer in La Liga with a clinical finish to open the scoring.
He was presented with a golden opportunity to get Valencia off their marks early after Michael Essien mis-hit a loose ball back towards his goalkeeper Petr Cech and the Valencia striker quickly pounced.
Chelsea equalised 12 minutes later partly thanks to Drogba, who executed a neat one-two with Florent Malouda on the edge of the box.
Malouda then aimed a pass at Joe Cole across the face of the goal only for it to be cut out by Moretti, but the luckless Italian defender turned the ball into his own net.
Valencia fans briefly believed their team had taken the lead again 11 minutes into the second half when Fernando Morientes connected with a pass from Villa but the Valencia goal scorer was ruled offside.
Chelsea's billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich sat impassively in the Mestalla stadium directors' box for much of the match but Drogba finally brought a smile to his face after 71 minutes.
A long pass out of the midfield from Cole found his team mate roaming forward and Drogba outsprinted Raul Albiol before sending his left foot shot from just inside the area past Valencia goalkeeper Timo Hildebrand.
Valencia had an great opportunity to equalise five minutes from the whistle but Villa missed a Silva pass completely, with the goal at his mercy, and Carlos Marchena also failed to get his shot on target.
"We should have got an equaliser at the end, we had two good chances," said Albelda.
On the night, Grant played the cards in his hand almost to perfection.
The Israeli coach caught Valencia by surprise even before the start, leaving Andrei Shevchenko on the bench and instead opting Nigerian striker John Obi Mikel.
In the end, Mikel made little impression but the energy of Drogba allied to the creativity of Malouda more than made up for the deficit.
Chelsea and England captain John Terry, wearing a protective mask, made a remarkable return to action just three days after being operated on for a broken cheekbone.
Terry played the full 90 minutes and although he was, not unsurprisingly, quite subdued by his normal standards.
However, it was a mark of Valencia's lack of firepower upfront that he was rarely put under pressure apart from brief periods in the opening and closing stages of the game.
Chelsea now lead Group B with four points from two games with Valencia and German side Schalke 04, who beat Rosenborg 2-0 on Wednesday, one point in arrears.
Subject: Spanish news