Chelsea made a triumphant return to the scene of their most painful Champions League defeat when they beat Spartak Moscow 2-0 in a top-of-the-table Group F match on Tuesday.
Russia left back Yuri Zhirkov put the London club, beaten by Manchester United in the 2008 final after a penalty shootout at the same Luzhniki Stadium, ahead before French striker Nicolas Anelka doubled the lead just before the break. Zhirkov, familiar with the artificial pitch after spending five seasons with Spartak’s bitter Moscow rivals CSKA, pounced on a loose ball in the 23rd minute and volleyed spectacularly into the top corner of the net from 20m.
Anelka, who wasted a good chance to make it 2-0 when he lost control of the ball with the goal at his mercy, made amends in the 43rd minute when he raced through the defense before driving low past keeper Andriy Dykan.
Chelsea maintained their 100 percent record in the section with a third successive victory, while Spartak remained on six points.
Olympique Marseille beat Slovakia’s Zilina 1-0 in the other Group F match later on Tuesday.
Carlo Ancelotti’s Chelsea, missing several key players including Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard, started cautiously, but Zhirkov’s stunning strike changed things.
Spartak, without creative Brazil midfielder Alex because of a thigh injury, created the first real chance in the 13th minute, but winger Dmitry Kombarov blasted over the bar from 12m. The visitors also went close when Florent Malouda drilled the ball narrowly wide from the edge of the box. Spartak relied on long-range efforts mainly through Ireland winger Aiden McGeady and Brazilian striker Welliton after the interval, but rarely threatened Chelsea keeper Petr Cech.
Chelsea midfielder Michael Essien spurned a late opportunity late when he missed from close range.
MARSEILLE 1, ZILINA 0
AFP, MARSEILLE, FRANCE
French champions Marseille beat Slovakian side MSK Zilina 1-0 on Tuesday to record their first win and pick up their first points in the Champions League this season.
Souleymane Diawara’s 48th-minute header was enough to keep alive Marseille’s hopes of reaching the knockout stage for the first time since they won the competition with present coach Didier Deschamps as captain in 1993.
“We could have scored more goals,” Deschamps said. “A lot of people were expecting a fairly handsome victory, but it wasn’t easy against a team that knew how to defend well in the first half and who gave us worries in the second. But this victory keeps alive our hopes of qualifying.”
The hosts Marseille pressed hard from the whistle at Stade Velodrome, forcing five corners in the opening 15 minutes.
The Marseille strikers started to find their range as French international Andre-Pierre Gignac forced Zilina goalkeeper Martin Dubravka into a fine save in the 11th minute.
Marseille goalkeeper Steve Mandanda was forced into his first real save of the night in the 63rd minute, as Zilina captain Robert Jez’s fierce strike had the France international diving at full stretch to turn his shot away for a corner.
“It was a very good match, close until the 90th minute,” Zilina coach Pavel Hapal said. “We played very well and no-one was expecting such a performance from us.”
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