It was another indication that football's attraction may be starting to wane, through the combination of high ticket prices - a factor Jose Mourinho pointed to - live television coverage and predictable matches.
For an hour those who stayed away seemed the better judges as Chelsea, a goal to the good from Frank Lampard after 18 minutes, strolled though the match at half-pace against resolutely defensive opponents. Then Anderlecht struck a post, both sides realised the result remained in doubt, and the tempo upped from soporific to diverting.
In the event, Chelsea held on to extend their competitive record this season to six wins in six matches without a goal conceded. But they were time-wasting and wilfully conceding free-kicks by the end.
Mourinho, Chelsea's manager, blamed Anderlecht for the dull fare. He had a point. Chelsea are frequently functional rather than stirring but it is hard to thrill when only one side is competing. Even after Lampard put Chelsea ahead the visitors' continued to put bodies behind the ball.
"We were waiting for them [to attack] and they never came," said Mourinho. "In the last 10 minutes they had a go but we were always comfortable and the result was justified.
"Why should we force the pace? The supporters are happy with three points; they prefer 1-0 to 1-1."
Of the empty seats Mourinho said: "It is because [supporters] are not rich. We have had consecutive matches and ticket prices are high. Everything is expensive for ordinary people, opera, theatre." Tickets ranged from £35-£60.
Those who paid those prices saw Anderlecht threaten just once in the opening half hour. The game was still goalless when Bart Goor and Mbo Mpenza combined to release Serhat Akin behind John Terry. It was a decent chance but the Turk shot woefully wide.
Chelsea had begun with greater intent. A clever second-minute free-kick from Arjen Robben resulted in a blocked shot from Michael Essien, the ball broke to Damien Duff, whose volley drew a sharp save from Daniel Zitka.
Another set-piece broke the deadlock. After Duff was brought down on the edge of the area the ball was tapped to Lampard who drove through the wall. There was a suspicion of a deflection off a defender's heel but Zitka still looked badly at fault as the ball flew past him. Further chances were, though, elusive, especially from open play.
In the 63rd minute the game received the tonic it needed. Anthony Vanden Borre chanced his arm from just over 30 yards out. His shot took a deflection off Terry's shin and beat Petr Cech, only to cannon back off the post.
Mourinho immediately brought on Shaun Wright-Phillips while Frank Vercauteren added Christian Wilhelmsson. The Swede soon won a corner but it was the English substitute who came closer to making the difference. Having set up Essien for a shot he should have settled the tie in injury time but shot over.
Chelsea (4-5-1): Cech; Ferreira, Terry, Ricardo Carvalho, Gallas; Duff (J Cole, 76), Essien (Huth, 89), Makelele, Lampard, Robben (Wright-Phillips, 66); Drogba. Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Crespo, Geremi, Diarra.
Anderlecht (4-4-2): Zitka; Zewlakow (Jestrovic, 81), Juhasz, Tihinen, Deschacht; Vanden Borre, Vanderhaeghe (Delorge, 88), Deman, Goor; Mpenza, Akin (Wilhelmsson, 69). Substitutes not used: Proto, Baseggio, Hasi, Zetterberg.
Referee: W Stark (Germany).Reuse content