Tension swirled around this match during the build-up to this must-win clash for Chelsea, but it dissipated after less than three minutes. Daniel Sturridge swung the ball from right wing to back post, Juan Mata, playing against his former side, laid off to Didier Drogba and the evergreen Ivorian drilled past the hapless Diego Alves. The relief was palpable.
How do you replace Didier Drogba? When the stakes are highest, the Ivorian is still Chelsea’s go-to striker. More than that, he is their talisman. Last night’s performance might just persuade the Stamford Bridge hierarchy that he is worth more than a one-year contract extension but, even if he stays, at 33, he cannot be the man Andre Villas-Boas builds his next-generation team around. Fernando Torres has been far too sporadic a performer to take over that role, while Romelu Lukaku is talented but extremely raw on the early evidence. It leaves the Portuguese with a major headache. This is one old-timer he must want to stay.
FROM THE DUGOUT
“The game could have changed if we had scored the first goal. Conceding so early made it very difficult for us. If either Alba or Albelda’s chances had gone it would have been a different game. But we wasted time and Chelsea's potential defeated us in the end. We could not get that 2-1. Maybe we deserved a little bit more tonight.”
– Valencia manager, Unai Emery