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Emphatic Home Win Puts Chelsea in Sight of Qualification

And now for the positive news from Stamford Bridge: yesterday's 1-0 defeat of Barcelona was as comprehensive a team performance (with the possible exception of the struggling Andriy Shevchenko) as Chelsea has managed to put together all year. But for some poor finishing, the Sky Blues could have easily scored one or two more. The highlight of the night was the wonderful quick turn and shot dispatched by Chelsea's Ivorian striker, Didier Drogba, who netted his fourth Champions League goal of the year and his ninth in all competitions. After a tense first-half display from the home team, which saw Barcelona's teenage sensation Lionel Messi terrorize Ashley Cole down the right, Drogba put the Blues ahead with his cracking goal just after the break. Chelsea was able to settle down after scoring, putting together a thoroughly organized final 45 minutes in which Michael Essien, Claude Makelele and Michael Ballack left very little room for Barcelona's talented midfield to maneuver. The win put Chelsea within touching distance of the second round, five points clear at the top of Champions League Group A, while the result leaves Barcelona with a great deal more to do to ensure qualification. That task starts in two week's time with Chelsea's return to the Nou Camp. It should also be noted that Hilario, the goalkeeper who stood in the place injured duo Petr Cech and Carlo Cudicini, put in a thoroughly competent performance in both halves, lifting his team. Other outstanding performances came from Khalid Boulahrouz at right back (he absolutely smothered Ronaldinho), and Michael Essien in midfield.

Read the whole story at The Independent »

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