Ancelotti's men stroll onward after quiet night at the Bridge
Chelsea 0 Copenhagen 0 (Chelsea win 2-0 on aggregate)
Resplendent in their daring pink away shirts at Stamford Bridge last night, the Copenhagen players ended up looking like the guests who turn up for the party in fancy dress only to discover that it is an altogether more sober affair than they had anticipated.
This was not a Champions League tie that will be remembered at Chelsea as a classic, rather it was a slow, often frustrating trudge, into the Champions League quarter-finals for Carlo Ancelotti's team. They got the job done but that was about it and after the renewing effect of their return to form in the Premier League this was not a performance to raise hopes dramatically for the competition's latter stages.
Nevertheless, yesterday was a year to the day since Chelsea were beaten at home by Jose Mourinho's Internazionale in the last 16 of the competition and were forced to contemplate some uncomfortable home truths. At least they are in the draw for the last eight of the competition tomorrow even if it was not pretty last night.
The official statistics said that Chelsea had just 45 per cent of the possession and 25 attempts on the Copenhagen goal. Unfortunately for Ancelotti's side only seven of them were on target. The two Copenhagen central defenders, Mathias Jorgensen and Mikael Antonsson, were much better this time around but for the most part Copenhagen were begging to be put out of their misery.
Chelsea huffed and puffed yet never delivered the knockout blow. Nicolas Anelka, Didier Drogba and John Obi Mikel all froze when presented with good chances and Ancelotti even sent on Fernando Torres as a late substitute who, despite looking sharper, can now chalk up his sixth game at his new club without a goal.
As well as Torres, Florent Malouda and Michael Essien were left on the bench and came on late in the game. All three were being rested with Manchester City on Sunday in mind when Chelsea go for their third straight Premier League win. Last night they fell back on those two Anelka goals in the first leg almost three weeks earlier to see them through.
Afterwards, Ancelotti announced himself to be satisfied with the performance. He will be relieved that he has delivered for Roman Abramovich the prospect of success in this competition again. Mourinho is in that quarter-final draw, too, but that is a problem that can wait for another day.
If he can avoid Barcelona and Real Madrid, the two remaining English sides and possibly the defending champions Internazionale in the next round then Ancelotti can consider himself a lucky manager. After the season he has had he probably deserves a bit of good fortune tomorrow.
Last night, the opposition were not up to much at all and the 36,454 crowd meant that Stamford Bridge was far from full. Aside from a glorious free-kick by Copenhagen's Senegalese striker Dame N'Doye, which hit Petr Cech's post in the first half, it was hard to remember a single notable attack from the Danes who had just two shots on target all match.
In Torres' absence, Drogba did pretty much everything but score before the break. He has not scored for Chelsea since 24 January and the anxiety is starting to show. In the first half, he was much more assertive in the Copenhagen half but was not presented with the chances to score himself.
He played a smart ball behind the Copenhagen right-back Oscar Wendt for Ashley Cole to run on to in the eighth minute and, with few options in the penalty area, Cole only put his shot into the side netting. Before the break, with Yuri Zhirkov on the left and Ramires on the right, Chelsea put the occasional good move together.
The best of them started with a searching low cross-field ball from Ramires on the right to Zhirkov on the left who played in Anelka with a first-time pass. His shot was saved by Johan Wiland in the Copenhagen goal. In two passes, Chelsea had gone from back to front and cut all the way through their opposition.
By the second half it seemed like just a matter of time until Chelsea scored. Instead they discovered new and varied ways to miss the chances that came their way. Drogba misjudged the ball at the back post from Jose Bosingwa's cross. Anelka lost his nerve when through on goal and doubled back. Mikel struck the bar with a header from just a yard out.
They were a good deal less ruthless than they had been two weeks before in Copenhagen. The Danish champions hung on grimly waiting for the moment when they were put out of their misery.
With little more than 20 minutes left to play, Ancelotti sent on Torres for Anelka to try to liven up what was becoming a non-event. In Anelka's long, grumpy walk to the bench you could tell exactly what he thought about the decision. Torres saw little of the ball at first but a burst down the left side and a shot clipped with his right foot had a glimmer of promise about it.
The Danish fans in the Shed celebrated this draw like a victory and well they might given how far off the pace their team had looked in the first leg. As for Chelsea, the last eight of the Champions League has become a basic requirement over recent years and they must pray that the draw is kind to them. Ancelotti will also have to hope that his players respond when the stakes are higher.
Man of the match: Ivanovic.
Match rating: 4/10.
Referee: S O Moen (Nor).
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