Rosenborg 0 Chelsea 4: Drogba in regal form as Chelsea win group

Click to follow
The Independent Football

In the city of the kings, Chelsea made a regal procession. It's still to Trondheim, as ancient custom dictates, that the Norwegian sovereign comes for his blessing and last night the kings of the King's Road, with Didier Drogba at their head, made their own serene progress into the last 16 of the Champions League as winners of their group.

Drogba didn't so much overwhelm Rosenborg as humble them, taking control inside the first minute. The Ivorian, known as "King Drogba" in his homeland, struck twice in the first-half he now has 21 goals in 38 appearances in this competition to make a mockery of the pre-match claim by the home side's veteran defender Vidar Riseth that they had "devised" a plan to stop him. Some plan.

Drogba himself had said that Chelsea needed to win this Group B tie last night to prove they are contenders for the European Cup. Well, on that criteria, the case is proven although whether or not Rosenborg can be regarded as a litmus test is doubtful. In plunging temperatures they duly froze.

The 21,600-seat stadium could have sold out twice over and the build-up of chanting from the vertiginous stands promised a stern examination. It proved wholly illusionary. Rosenborg may have been buoyed by back-to-back victories over Valencia, and the draw at Stamford Bridge which ended Jose Mourinho's regime, but they played more like players who have just finished fifth in the Norwegian league which they have than equals with the continent's top teams.

Chelsea can count themselves among those with manager Avram Grant declaring of their performance and the conditions: "I was freezing but I was warm in the heart." It's now 13 games undefeated under him 10 victories and three draws with Grant admitting that winning this competition now represented the priority for Chelsea. "This is one of our targets, maybe the main target," the Israeli said. "We want to do it and we will do it. Hopefully we will do it this year. It's not just that we win games, it's that we progress and play better with good attacking football."

The importance of Drogba to that "project" cannot be underestimated. When he was replaced by the leaden Andrei Shevchenko it only served to highlight how crucial he is. Chelsea will have to contend without him early next year, with the African Nations Cup, with Grant admitting it will "not be easy" to cope.

Drogba set the tone immediately when he reached Ashley Cole's flick-on, ahead of Riseth, only to steer the ball the wrong side of the post. If that served as a warning then so did a fierce shot just three minutes later that whistled past Rosenborg goalkeeper Lars Hirschfeld and narrowly wide.

The Norwegians poured forward but were doused by a counter-attack which ended with Michael Essien spooning a shot, from Drogba's header down, over the bar when he should have scored.

Moments later and Chelsea struck. Another strong run by the impressive Joe Cole carved a hole in the Rosenborg defence and gave him a clear sight of goal. His powerful drive was palmed out by Hirschfeld but the ball fell to Drogba who, from an acute angle, slammed his right-footed shot high into the net. Quickly he struck again by darting into the area to take the ball from Essien after Shaun Wright-Phillips' astute pass. With the defenders regrouping, the striker instantly steered the ball beyond Hirschfeld.

It deflated the Norwegians and that continued when Hirschfeld blundered. After Joe Cole was fouled, the former Tottenham goalkeeper was all too easily beaten by Alex with a low grass-cutter of a free-kick from almost 40 yards. The ball went straight through the Rosenborg wall.

The home side were booed off at half-time but immediately after the re-start they almost fell further behind as Wright-Phillips' rising shot only just cleared the bar.

Essien then broke away and his powerful drive was blocked by Hirschfeld only for Joe Cole, one of three on-rushing Chelsea players, to bundle the rebound home. Given his vibrant, clever contribution it was a deserved reward for the midfielder. And crowned an impressively-assured performance.

Rosenborg (4-3-1-2): Hirschfeld; Stoor, Riseth, Kvarme, Dorsin ( Basma, 86); Skjelbred, Tettey, Traor (Strand, 56); Sapara; Kone (Ya, 63), Iversen. Substitutes not used: Lund Hansen (gk), Koppinen, Storflor, Nordvik.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cudicini; Belletti, Alex, Terry, A Cole; Essien, Makelele, Lampard (Pizarro, 76); Wright-Phillips (Kalou, 68), Drogba (Shevchenko, 68), J Cole. Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Mikel, Bridge, Ben Haim.

Referee: O Benquerenca (Portugal).

Champions League Group B

Remaining fixtures: 11 December: Chelsea v Valencia; Schalke 04 v Rosenborg.