CHELSEA (2) vs MSK ZILINA (1)
CHELSEA gave manager Carlo Ancelotti something to smile about by booking a place in the Champions League last 16, but only after he had given them a half-time rollicking.
The Blues boss, whose happiness with behind-the-scenes decisions has been the subject of intense speculation, tore into his team when they went in at the break a goal down to Babatounde Bello’s strike.
But the dressing-room dressing down worked and Daniel Sturridge claimed the equaliser an improved Chelsea performance deserved before Florent Malouda grabbed the winner five minutes from time. Victory ensured Ancelotti’s men of top spot in Group F but the Italian warned them they would have no chance of lifting the trophy if they repeated their lacklustre performance in the opening stages.
“It was a difficult game because we didn’t start the game well and were 1-0 down,” he said. “We had a good reaction in the second half, with more intensity and good play, and plenty of opportunities to score. But if we play like we did in the first half, it’s impossible to win the Champions League. If we play like we did in the second then we’ll have a chance.”
Of his half-time outburst, Ancelotti added: “I was upset because we didn’t play well. I was disappointed because this was an important game and an important moment. We wanted to win and finish first in the group.”
Ancelotti came into the match in dire need of a morale-boosting win, having lost three in four, but gambled by handing a clutch of youngsters starting roles. Zilina were quicker to assert themselves, however, and took a shock lead on 19 minutes when Bello played a one-two and poked past stand-in goalkeeper Ross Turnbull.
It stayed that way until six minutes after the break when the lively Sturridge took a chance with a back post run and tapped in a Salomon Kalou cross. Striker Didier Drogba and youngster Patrick van Aanholt both hit the woodwork before Malouda side-footed home from Drogba’s knock-down.
Josh McEachran, 17, shone on his first start and Ancelotti said: “I think Josh can play every game. He showed his quality. He’s ready to play.”