The two goal cushion Chelsea
carried into tonights second leg of this qualifier
was always likely to be enough padding to ensure a safe
passage into the Champions League proper. The true European
test of how far this club has come in the summer still
Instead this was a day for individuals
an evening for a few on the fringes or some young
recent arrivals to make claims or names for themselves.
Starting at right-back for instance
was Glen Johnson who had missed out last Saturday; Celestine
Babayaro was making his first start knowing now that
Wayne Bridge is challenging his regular place. Joe Cole
received the debut hed been craving while on the
night Hernan Crespo was finally confirmed as our newest
blue, there was another chance for Gudjohnsen and Hasselbaink
to remind everyone of past glories.
Come the final whistle several reputations
had been enhanced. There are few better ways to get
yourself noticed than to find the net, even if you are
a defender, and goals from Glen Johnson and Robert Huth
didnt just kill this tie stone dead, they were
also big career firsts.
Johnsons opener came after half-an-hour.
Jesper Gronkjaer had been checked in full flight by
full-back Stas, earning the player a booking. In the
absence of more regular free-kick takers, the honours
went to Frank Lampard and he didnt disappoint.
His arrowed dipping delivery caused
enough difficulties to the lanky Sninsky that he could
only head as far as the unmarked Glen Johnson ten yards
out. There was still quite some work to do to take advantage
but the young full-back was up to the challenge, directing
his downward header inside the near-post.
Robert Huths big moment in the
floodlights came midway through the second-half. Emmanuel
Petit, on as half-time sub for Lampard, curled a free-kick
which was heading inside the near post until the keeper
punched away for a corner. Petit again took the dead
ball and Huth, beyond the far-post matched Johnson for
aerial prowess by finding the net too for his teams
For both 19 year-olds it was the first
senior goal of their careers, surely making this game
something of a collectors items.
Those milestones apart, the first hour
of this game was pretty turgid stuff. Joe Cole had looked
a possible source of chances in the first quarter, his
best period of the game, and he was the recipient of
some rather brutal tackling.
There were a couple of close shaves
before Johnsons opener. The first came from a
Hasselbaink corner, whipped in low, which Gudjohnsen
attempted to turn in with an imitation of the Zola wonder
goal versus Norwich. Against these yellow and green
shirted opponents, the contact was too feint and the
ball flew across the goal face to safety.
Then Jesper Gronkjaer who had been mixing
danger with sloppiness, found plenty of time to measure
a cross and this time produced a peach, right on to
the head of Hasselbaink at the far post, but he nodded
inches over when it looked easier to score than to miss.
A couple of speculative efforts were
all Zilina offered by way of resistance, they never
appeared to carry any genuine belief that an upset was
possible. Miroslav Barcik who played wide right in the
first leg but started up front tonight was again the
one player to impress.
Slovakian support in the stadium was
roughly 50 strong and they were the only members of
the 23, 408 crowd not to exercise their lungs fully
when Hernan Crespos half-time unveiling took place.
Those same Chelsea lungs were in action
once more when with 12 minutes to go and the score already
2-0, an older hand decided to get in on the goalscoring
Geremi started the move and continued
it after exchanging passes with Gudjohnsen. His perfectly
flighted ball over the defence was chested down by Hasselbaink
who then hit an angled drive across the keeper for his
second of the season.
Gudjohnsen himself had almost added
his name to the score sheet earlier in the second half
when first he flicked in Geremi but after the Cameroonian
had lost possession, he picked the ball up again, burst
between two players and unleashed a blistering shot
which curled onto the post.
The most spectacular moment of the game
and its biggest talking point as well came after the
scoring had been completed. Watchers of Chelsea reserves
over the last two seasons will be fully aware of Robert
Huths free-kick abilities. Basically if you give
one away anywhere in your half with him on the pitch,
you are in danger!
When Zilina committed a foul close on
40 yards out, it was his big chance to perform his party
piece in front of a wider audience. Geremi touched the
ball sideways and Huth hit it straight and true. It
crashed into the crossbar and then down and out.
On replays, it looked for all the world
to have gone in but not according to a poorly placed
linesman so Robert will have to wait for another day
to break his duck in this department. It will only be
a matter of time.
Chelsea as a whole only need wait until
Thursday to find out our Champions League destiny after
this safe, if pedestrian progress into the group stage