Shevchenko shows Roman conquest was worth wait

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The Independent Football

At 3.42pm here yesterday, Andrei Shevchenko ran into the Liverpool penalty area, lost possession and tried to push past the defender, Steve Finnan. Free-kick. It was in front of the Liverpool supporters. "Who are ya?" they chanted with great relish. At 3.43pm, Frank Lampard floated a through-ball between the Liverpool defenders, Shevchenko chested it down and calmly side-footed his first goal in Chelsea colours. It was the act of a world-class finisher. A goal machine. A £30m prize purchase.

In the boxes, Roman Abramovich celebrated as if it was the killer touch of a Champions' League final. Maybe, come next May, the Ukrainian will be executing just that. But for Chelsea's owner, it was delicious vindication of his relentless pursuit of the striker.

For this was what Abramovich craved. "Sheva" in his team, scoring goals. It was the fulfilment of a billionaire's fantasy and, when someone has the fabulous wealth of this billionaire, there are not too many fantasies that cannot be fulfilled, even if it took him almost three years to persuade Milan to part with his friend.

Shevchenko's appetite has been questioned. He talked of moving to London for personal, lifestyle reasons. He wanted to learn English so he could speak more freely with his North American wife, and he wanted to be able to converse with his children. It did not sound as if football came too highly in the equation for a man who had conquered Serie A with 127 goals in 207 games, although the fabulous riches on offer from his new employers were a powerful incentive.

Shevchenko looked hung y enough yesterday. Indeed, he was hugely impressive.

Chelsea were eager to pick out their new striker. Maybe too eager. It led to them searching for longer and longer passes and, despite Shevchenko's willingness and the sureness of his control, it looked like a slightly desperate tactic - that was until Michael Ballack also involved himself.

The German captain, the second of the triumvirate of stellar signings Chelsea hope to complete this summer, looked an assured presence even if his first influence was to crudely fell Momo Sissoko. That was a reminder of another part of Ballack's game, one that probably also attracted Chelsea. He does not shirk a physical challenge and collects cards as well as goals and assists. He almost had one of the latter when his deft chip picked out Shevchenko on just nine minutes.

But Ballack did not last long. He pulled up before the half-hour and was ushered off. Before then he showed glimpses of what an accomplished player he is, although a major question mark must hang over just how he and Lampard will work together.

Yesterday, Lampard tried to do everything - and that is a situation which may lead to conflict. Ballack was not brought in to defer. Tall, two-footed and able to both attack and defend, he is the embodiment of the modern footballer. Even more so than Lampard.

Once Ballack had departed Lampard was, unconsciously or otherwise, liberated. Further forward Didier Drogba appeared subdued by Shevchenko's presence. But it was a corner won by the Ivorian from which Shevchenko almost added a second with a brave, stooping header.

Chelsea expect much from Shevchenko and Ballack, who both turn 30 next month within three days of each other. On yesterday's showing, the two appear capable of delivering. But it is a long season and, as their manager Jose Mourinho wanted, Chelsea have a "short squad".

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