No Didier Drogba, no goals and not even 90 minutes for Andrei Shevchenko, the man who would be the new goal king of Stamford Bridge. Chelsea might have wondered how they failed to win this one but the more pertinent question for Avram Grant is who will score the goals against Arsenal on Sunday.
Shevchenko was replaced at half-time as agreed before the match, according to Grant but he did not do much in the first 45 minutes to suggest he is ready to step into Drogba's boots. This was the Ukrainian's sixth start since Grant took over in September and it showed. Chelsea are undefeated in 16 games under Grant but winning is the problem for now.
It was only a Champions League dead rubber, and one which Grant said his side "deserved to win 5-0", but in the increasingly frantic attempts to break down a woeful Valencia side there was the tacit acknowledgment that Chelsea really should be winning games like this. Relying on a piece of Joe Cole magic may be an entertaining way of trying to win a game but it is hardly the most reliable.
Grant was back on the defensive after the match, claiming that he did not fear playing without the injured Drogba, who will be back before the next stage in February. "We have won games without Didier before and this was the best I could expect [in the circumstances]," he said. "The game was not important for qualification and we wanted to play good football. We deserved to win 5-0."
There was a sense of disbelief from Grant that yet more is expected of his side, who had won Group B before last night's game. As ever, they have the capacity to get results and remain unconvincing at the same time. Nevertheless they are in the draw for the knockout stages a week on Friday and Grant and John Terry were making all the usual noises last night about being one of the teams who could win the competition.
Petr Cech was back in goal for the first time since 6 November, although his biggest challenge was keeping warm in the chill December air. Paulo Ferreira, out since the end of October, was also back. In fact Grant picked at least seven players who have a chance of starting against Arsenal. Stamford Bridge managed a crowd of more than 41,000; not bad when you consider that Jose Mourinho's last game in charge, against Rosenborg, was in front of 24,973.
The other major question was how have Valencia become so poor? When Chelsea beat them on 3 October it was the launchpad for the Grant regime. Since then Valencia have lost seven times in league and Champions League and sacked their manager. Seventh in La Liga, their new coach, Ronald Koeman, is finding it hard to turn the club around.
Frank Lampard was withdrawn shortly before the hour as Grant sought to rest some of his key men. Salomon Kalou hit the bar when Claudio Pizarro headed the ball back across goal in the 74th minute; Pizarro's shot was turned wide by Santiago Cañizares.
The best moment was a Cole run and shot that Cañizares turned on to his post. Then, faced with a suicidal back pass from Stephen Sunday, the goalkeeper had to turn the ball wide with a diving header. John Terry squared up to Ivan Helguera at the end and had a word with the Polish referee. That was as exciting as it got.
Chelsea (4-4-2): Cech; Ferreira (Belletti, 71), Terry, Ben Haim, Bridge; Wright-Phillips, Essien, Lampard (J Cole, 59), Kalou; Pizarro, Shevchenko (Makelele, ht). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Sidwell, Mikel, Alex.
Valencia (4-3-3): Cañizares; Miguel (Fernandes, 64), Albiol, Helguera, Moretti; Sunday, Marchena, Silva; Villa (Arizmendi, 50), Morientes, Vicente (Mata, 74). Substitutes not used: Mora (gk), Zigic, Lomban, Montoro.
Referee: G Gilewski (Poland).Reuse content