Carlo Ancelotti left the pitch with a fist raised in salute to the Chelsea fans who sung his name in the away end of the Parken Stadium and when he looks back on last night, the Italian will reflect it has been a while since that has happened. It has been a while since his Chelsea team have been quite so good as they were last night.
Instead of the meek, afraid-to-make-a-mistake team who have wrecked much of their season in the last three months, this was a different Chelsea. This was the Chelsea that likes to swagger into the homes of lesser European lights and, quite frankly, give the locals a lesson in how to play.
Led by Nicolas Anelka, and his two splendid goals, they dismissed the ambitious young kings of Denmark and as good as booked their place in the last eight of the Champions League. There was no doubt Copenhagen, who had not played a competitive game since 7 December thanks to a winter break in their league, were poor. Ancelotti's team, however, were ruthless.
The return leg at Stamford Bridge cannot be taken for granted – not until Chelsea's form has proved to have stabilised – but this was a giant stride in the right direction. There have been hints that Ancelotti's team were getting back to their form of before the start of their slump in November, especially in that win over Sunderland at the start of the month, but it is a long time since they have looked so in control of a game from the beginning. If Fernando Torres had been capable of mustering a goal that would have made it the ideal night but at least the £50m man looked much more on the pace.
Instead it was Anelka, with a goal in each half, who converted Chelsea's confident style into goals. The Frenchman has now scored seven goals in the Champions League this season in six appearances. Combined with Tottenham's defeat to Blackpool in the League, this turned out to be one of the best nights in a long time for Ancelotti.
As expected, the manager dropped Didier Drogba, but his 4-4-2 formation was something of a surprise. In attacking moments, Florent Malouda pushed on and tucked in to make it look more like 4-3-2-1. Torres benefited from the direct nature of Chelsea's play – more often than not it was a quick ball over the top.
From the way Ancelotti spoke later it was hard not to form the impression that he believes the partnership of Anelka and Torres is the way forward for his team. Drogba, he said, had taken the news that he was being left out well. "We want to maintain their fitness, but rotation could do them good with the Premier League and the Champions League," Ancelotti said. "They are accepting my decisions without problems, and this is important."
There was nothing about Drogba, who played 120 minutes against Everton on Saturday, that suggested he was having a sulk when he came on for the last 18 minutes. But it will be interesting to see his reaction should Torres and Anelka become the default option for the big games. Against Manchester United on Tuesday it seems certain Ancelotti will stick with the pair.
"They were two goals better than us, no discussion about that," said the Copenhagen coach Stale Solbakken. Those long weeks of inaction took their toll on this bright young team who, right from the start, were on the back foot. Solbakken admitted it was a problem. It is a major problem for Danish teams in European competition.
Copenhagen were taken by surprise in the early stages when Chelsea attacked in waves, but for all of their energy it was old boy Jesper Gronkjaer who unwittingly made his former side's goal in the first half when he gave the ball straight to Anelka who ran on goal unchallenged to score. It was Gronkjaer's first Chelsea assist since he made that goal for Marcel Desailly in the win over Liverpool in 2003. Still, Anelka was allowed to run a fair distance before he got his shot off.
This makes it three goals for Chelsea without a goal for Torres but he seems to be getting closer. His first meaningful touch, when he tried to control Ramires' wayward shot in the seventh minute, was poor but he improved. He got a harsh booking for a foul on Christian Bolanos.
Anelka's second goal was sweetly worked. It went from Essien to Lampard who slipped a pass into the right channel for Anelka to run on to. The distance from goal, as well as the angle, made it look unpromising but Anelka hit it so cleanly that the ball was past the goalkeeper Johan Wiland before he could get his hands anywhere near it.
Torres was played in by Essien before the hour and cut back inside nicely to deceive two Copenhagen defenders but could not beat Wiland with his shot. Whether this is the end of Ancelotti's "bad moment", we will be closer to knowing after United visit Stamford Bridge.
FC Copenhagen (4-4-2): Wiland; Pospech, Jorgensen, Antonsson, Wendt (Bengtsson, 75); Bolanos, Kvist, Claudemir, Gronkjaer (Zohore, 86); Santin (Vingaard, h-t), N'Doye. Substitutes not used Christensen (gk), Kristensen, Hooiveld, Delaney.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Cech; Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Essien, Lampard, Malouda (Zhirkov, 85); Anelka (Drogba, 73), Torres (Kalou, 90). Substitutes not used Turnbull (gk), Mikel, Ferreira, McEachran.
Man of the match Lampard.
Match rating 6/10.
Referee B Kuipers (Netherlands).
Chelsea: Man for man marking
Made some important second-half saves but never tested too much. 6/10
Lively overlapping beyond Malouda but delivery not at usual standard. 6
Strong in the air as usual, booked late in the game after getting turned. 6
Trademark reliability from the Serb, marked and tackled well throughout. 7
Tidy in defence without ever penetrating when in advanced positions. 6
Did not get into the box much, but provided good service from the left. 6
Passed the ball more quickly than recently, classy assist for the second goal. 7
A more ambitious pick than John Obi Mikel, he drove forward throughout. 7
Moved out to the right wing, working hard in defence and attack. 7
Movement and link-ups excellent but still short of confidence in the box. 6
Enjoyed playing up front rather than wide, took both goals clinically. 9
Substitutes Drogba: Some powerful play 6; Zhirkov: Too late to really impact 5Reuse content