James Lawton: On this evidence, Frenchman must be worth even more than £50m
By the time Nicolas Anelka scored his second goal - with another elegant stroke of his right foot - Ancelotti had the gift of breathing space and Torres a superb example
Wednesday 23 February 2011
Nicolas Anelka made a dazzling case last night for the old theory that if form can come and go, if the hopes of a team can crumble in no more than a few days, class tends to be eternal.
When everything was swimming along in what before the kick-off must have seemed to Carlo Ancelotti something like half a lifetime ago, the Chelsea manager reserved some of his highest praise for Anelka.
He loved the coolness of his thinking and the haughty certainty of his manner. "He is a very clever player, he reads the game very well and he is very calm."
You could hardly put a price on such virtues – maybe not even £50m – as Chelsea sought to resurrect their season with a little self-belief.
Some other, older praise for the big, aloof Frenchman also came swirling back down the years when he shot Chelsea into a 17th-minute lead. His first mentor, Arsène Wenger, once said, "You don't need much time to see that Nicolas is a great player; he sees things so quickly and he has great skill."
This was Anelka's sixth goal in six Champions League games this season and also quick vindication of Ancelotti's decision to prefer him to the dislocated and no doubt disgruntled Didier Drogba.
Of course, to leave out the man from Ivory Coast is to surrender all kinds of mayhem potential, and this was especially so against a Copenhagen team plainly groping their way out of their midwinter break, but who was best qualified to supply the most favourable environment for Fernando Torres to make a first repayment on that fifty mill?
Anelka made it a no-brainer almost from his first rippling pass to the taut and striving Spaniard.
Torres, at his most relaxed, and thus imperious, would have buried the two sharp chances that came to him in the first half but such peace of mind does not come so easily when you have become the poster boy for your oligarch boss's most insistent football craving.
Whatever happened at the Parken Stadium was not likely to have Ancelotti striding down the King's Road like the man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo, but there was a small deposit to make on the confidence account which has recently been slipping so deeply into the red.
Copenhagen had, after all, drawn 1-1 in the group action with Barcelona, Cesc Fabregas's idea of the best team who ever lived, and with John Terry talking about the need to rally behind the manager there was a biting need for a show of some assurance.
Largely, it came and for this the always enigmatic and sometimes languid Anelka claimed a huge amount of the credit.
By the time he scored his second goal early in the second half – with another elegant stroke of his right foot – Ancelotti had the gift of breathing space and Torres, the taut Spaniard with the brilliant but currently strangled talent, a superb example. There was a quick response, too, to the precision of Anelka. Soon, Torres was working his way across the face of the Copenhagen goal before releasing a left-footed shot that required a sharp, diving save from goalkeeper Johan Wiland.
It was as though the clock might have been winding down on the Torres ordeal and, just possibly, the worst of the trial of the manager for whom he had been a potentially fabulous but dubiously timed gift.
Anelka, though, was making an irresistible point. When he gave way to Drogba after 73 minutes he had announced himself, again, an asset that only a fool would discount.
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