Sooner or later Chelsea are actually going to have a game on their hands, but it was never likely to come against the Slovakian minnows of MSK Zilina. If this had been an FA Cup third round tie, in a tight ground against a team buoyed by a passionate local support, it might have been considered a tough tie for the Premier League champions. But Chelsea are tapping such a rich vein of form at the moment it was all a little too easy for them, just as it has been for their four games so far in the defence of their title. Their most dangerous opponent at the moment is complacency.
Few teams can have enjoyed such an unruffled start to a season. The fixture list has been kind to Chelsea, so much so that manager Carlo Ancelotti could hardly have picked such a gentle passage to ease his side back into action.
However, that does not belittle the strength and creativity of their football right now. Four goals in Slovakia takes their total to 21 in their five successive wins, with just two going in at the other end. Ancelotti's side did have a sloppy period in the second half, when Zilina scored one goal and could have had a couple more, but it would be churlish to criticise the Chelsea defence on a night when they negotiated a potentially tricky fixture with the minimum of fuss.
The club scored 142 goals in all competitions last season; at the rate they are scoring goals at the moment they could break that record sometime around January. Chelsea are currently setting themselves very demanding standards that they will struggle to maintain. Ancelotti claimed his only concern is to continue racking up the victories, no matter the opponent.
"I am not interested in beating the score of last season," he said. "Our aim is only to play good football and win games."
Ancelotti had been critical of his team's lack of focus during their 3-1 win over West Ham United at the weekend, but there was no such dissatisfaction over the defensive lapses against the Slovak champions. "Obviously I hope to watch my team play a fantastic game for 90 minutes but I was a player and I know sometimes it is very difficult to play against an opponent who wants to come back into the game," he said. "If I have to judge the performance I am very happy because it's not easy in the Champions League to win 4-1 away. When you are 3-0 up it's normal to have more difficulty."
Nicolas Anelka, playing in his favoured role in the centre of Chelsea's attacking trio in the absence of the suspended Didier Drogba, was the architect of the victory, creating the first goal for Michael Essien after 13 minutes, and then scoring twice in four minutes to kill the game stone dead.
Essien began and finished the move that put Chelsea ahead, firing home from two yards out from Anelka's cross. The French striker then finished well from a tight angle to put Chelsea 2-0 up, and tapped in from close range after John Terry's header struck the bar to give the visitors a three-goal cushion.
Three minutes into the second half Chelsea hit Zilina on the break to grab their fourth goal. Yossi Benayoun hit the pass of the game, perfectly weighted to meet Daniel Sturridge's run and the England Under-21 international rounded the Slovak goalkeeper Martin Dubravka before finishing with his favoured left foot. The former Manchester City striker, in his first Champions League start, enjoyed a prolonged celebration in front of the pocket of hardy visiting fans in one corner of the Pod Dubnom Stadium. His first season after his move from City last summer did not go as planned, with senior figures at Stamford Bridge said to be disappointed at his attitude. A new season however has presented a new opportunity, and Sturridge did enough to suggest he has mended his ways and is not about to let his second chance at a Chelsea career slip away from him.
Ancelotti said Sturridge still had much to learn but he was satisfied with the striker's contribution, particularly the way he took his goal. "He has to improve his position on the pitch but he showed fantastic movement to score and I am happy."
Zilina, to their credit continued to commit men forward, regardless of the risk they were running at the back. Chelsea also had moments when their defence were made to look shaky by the home side, who were making their debut in the Champions League group stages. Twice Admir Vladavic tested Petr Cech with shots from distance that the Chelsea goalkeeper did well to save.
Defender Lubomir Guldan then headed wide from eight yards with the Chelsea defence wide open.
In the latter stages Ancelotti took advantage of the situation to blood three teenagers in Gaël Kakuta (19), Patrick van Aanholt (19) and 17-year-old Josh McEachran, the star of last season's FA Youth Cup winning team. The latter is a player Chelsea and Ancelotti rate very highly. "When it's possible I would like to give the time to the young players to improve experience in your team. He [McEachran] is a fantastic talent, he is very young, it's important to give him an opportunity."
Things could not be going much better for Chelsea at the moment, with Frank Lampard due to be fit again for Sunday's visit of Blackpool. Stiffer tests however are just around the corner, with a trip to Manchester City on Saturday week followed by a home game against Arsenal a week later.
MSK Zilina (4-2-3-1) Dubravka; Guldan (Angelovic 79), Piacek, Pecalka, Mraz; Jez, Bello; Rilke (Poliacek 57), Ceesay (Majtan 62), Vladavic; Oravec. Substitutes not used Krnac (gk), Leitner, Sourek, Vittor.
Chelsea (4-3-3) Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Zhirkov; Essien, Mikel, Benayoun (McEachran 79); Sturridge (Kakuta 62), Anelka, Malouda (van Aanholt 88). Substitutes not used Turnbull (gk), Ramires, Ferreira, Kalou.
Man of the match Malouda.
Referee B Kuipers (Neth)
Match rating 8/10.
Nervy at times – flapped and missed cross which resulted in Oravec's goal. Made a couple of decent saves from long-range 5
Caught in a poor position for the ball to hit him and go in for Zilina's goal in otherwise solid display. Kept the attacking left-winger Vladavic at bay 6
Formed a formidable partnership with Alex. Unlucky not to score after rising well from corner to head onto the bar. Anelka tapped in the rebound 7
Steady as ever in a not overly-busy night – was the first to meet most of the Slovakian champions' long balls into the box 6
Spent the majority of the game in Zilina half – advancing down the left. Linked up well with Benayoun to cause problems in the first-half 7
Midfielder is enjoying his less defensive role and scored his third goal in a week after a powerful finish from surging run. Full of running 8
John Obi Mikel
Assured in possession, and helped dominate the midfield with Essien, but lacked concentration at times 6
Drove the team forward down the left, and in his first start for Chelsea, looked like he has been a Blue for a while. Inch perfect through-ball for Sturridge's goal 8
Looked lively in first Champions League start, took his goal well after his frightening pace tore through Zilina's lumbering defence 7
Took advantage of the Slovakians' out-of-their depth defence to score two and set up one. A constant threat, would like to play them every week 8
Flitted in and out of the game, but hit a lovely ball over the top for Anelka to run onto for the second goal 6
Gaël Kakuta for Sturridge, 62
Showed some nice touches to bamboozle the dazed Slovakians 5
Josh McEachran for Benayoun, 79
The 17-year-old England youth international didn't look overawed in first Chelsea appearance but little to do as the game limped towards a finish
Van Aanolt for Malouda, 88
Not used Ross Turnbull, Paulo Ferreira, Ramires, Salomon Kalou
Results so far: MSK Zilina 1 Chelsea 4; Marseilles 0 Spartak Moscow 1.
Chelsea's remaining fixtures: 28 Sept Marseilles (h); 19 Oct Spartak Moscow (a); 3 Nov Spartak Moscow (h); 23 Nov MSK Zilina (a); 8 Dec Marseilles (a).
* Spanish defender Cesar Azpilicueta scored a late own goal to give Spartak Moscow victory at Marseilles, despite the French side dominating most of the match. After Marseilles wasted several chances to score, the Russian side broke quickly in the 81st minute, and when Dmitriy Kombarov crossed from the left Azpilicueta stuck out a leg and diverted the ball past goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.
Marseilles should easily have won the game, but Argentina midfielder Lucho Gonzalez headed wide of an open goal in the 76th after France winger Mathieu Valbuena set him up with a perfect cross to the back post. Striker Andre-Pierre Gignac then hit the post with a stunning strike in injury time at the Stade Vélodrome.Reuse content