Robben's brilliance confirms Chelsea progress

CSKA Moscow 0 - Chelsea 1
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The Independent Online

Jose Mourinho's claim that Chelsea were incapable of winning both the Premiership and the Champions' League was last night made to look a comment of misplaced, as well as uncommon, modesty from The Special One. Victory over CSKA Moscow meant his side qualified for the knock-out stages of the European Cup with a flawless record and at the earliest opportunity. They have also won Group H.

Jose Mourinho's claim that Chelsea were incapable of winning both the Premiership and the Champions' League was last night made to look a comment of misplaced, as well as uncommon, modesty from The Special One. Victory over CSKA Moscow meant his side qualified for the knock-out stages of the European Cup with a flawless record and at the earliest opportunity. They have also won Group H.

Pre-match and the Muscovite rumour mill was sloshing along with tales that the result had been fixed. Two nil to CSKA, it said, and the watching Roman Abramovich's little gift to the place where he officially lives and the other team into which he ploughs his (or at least his company's) cash. Such tosh was demolished by the most resolute of performances, "we fought like lions," said Mourinho ­ studded by a brilliant goal from man-of-the-match Arjen Robben ­ although CSKA themselves could have been accused of conspiracy with a penalty miss. Up until then the 'Horses' were rarely at the races.

Mourinho acknowledged the conspiracy theories. "In football no friends," he said "only after the game and before the game. My team fought a lot to go home with three points". That attitude will not change "because we have qualified". No doubt he anticipates more headlines ­ this time claiming he may do a favour for his former club, Porto. "If someone in Moscow thinks we will not play our best," Mourinho added "then they are wrong."

The Russian champions ­ set to win back-to-back titles ­ conceded the first goals of their campaign in London two weeks ago and it only took Chelsea 24 minutes to puncture their defences again. It was a goal that highlighted the rich potential and immaculate touch of Robben ­ and the system that Mourinho employs. For the first time the Dutchman started alongside Damien Duff and the coach could not resist a jibe at those who doubted the effectiveness of the partnership. It offered width and fluidity, "another dimension", with the two constantly interchanging flanks, spinning and working off Eidur Gudjohnsen.

On 24 minutes Duff burst down the right and into the penalty area and alertly cut the ball back to Robben. The 20-year-old feinted past Sergei Semak, steadied and slid the ball back across and into the net for his first Chelsea goal. Eight minutes later and Gudjohnsen nearly added a second. Again it was from a swift break and Robben ­ "an outstanding, incredible" player," according to Mourinho ­ was once more involved. He released Gudjohnsen who rounded the goalkeeper, shot but Semak recovered to scuff the ball away.

Chelsea were in total control. They had emerged to an unrelenting cacophony in a fixture that had sold out ­ a rarity in Russia. The stadium's capacity of just 29,000 helped dictate that, but so did local interest, which included the 600-strong Moscow branch of the Chelsea supporters club, and former president Boris Yeltsin. Alexei Smertin was not present, however. Injury denied the Russian captain his homecoming. He gave way for Scott Parker ­ a "player I trust" said Mourinho ­ while Glen Johnson, who had a traumatic match, was also included.

Chelsea struck after a flurry of CSKA corners with Jiri Jarosik, who contested aerial supremacy with John Terry, perennially dangerous. It was not until 40 minutes, however, that Petr Cech was stretched and he reacted sharply to turn away Vagner Love's angled drive. The interval threatened Chelsea's rhythm. Johnson, just 90 seconds into the second-half, almost sabotaged it. The full-back foolishly lunged at Yuri Zhirkov inside the area only to gain an unlikely reprieve when Love ballooned the penalty high over the crossbar. Johnson appeared demoralised. He was booked for another foul on Zhirkov, quickly turning into his tormentor, and was fortunate to survive after another. Despite Johnson's panic, his team-mates held firm.

"It was a high intensity match," Mourinho said. "Two teams playing at maximum level". Cech, one of the players, along with Terry and Ricardo Carvalho, the coach singled out for praise blocked a low shot from Jarosik and while CSKA poured forward they lacked belief. It oozed from Chelsea. Before the end the stadium was only a third full, its din dimmed and not even a flurry of flares could unsettle the serene visitors. "Maybe they (CSKA) deserves a point," Mourinho said. But that was another act of unnecessary modesty.

CSKA Moscow (3-4-2-1): Akinfeev; Ignashevich, Semberas, Berezoutsky; Semak (Olic, 70), Jarosik, Rahimic, Zhirkov; Gusev, Krasic (Aldonin, h-t); De Souza (Kirichenko, 82). Substitutes not used: Mandrikin (gk), Ferreyra, Laizans, Shershun.

Chelsea (4-3-2-1): Cech; Johnson, Terry, Carvalho, Gallas (Ferreira, 54); Lampard, Makelele, Parker (Tiago, 64); Robben, Duff; Gudjohnsen (Kezman, 68). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Babayaro, Cole, Huth.

Referee: M De Santos (Italy).

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