February 22, 2011
By ESPNsoccernet staff
Chelsea breathed life into their flagging season by cruising to a 2-0 win over FC Copenhagen in the first leg of the Champions League last-16 tie in Denmark.
Nicolas Anelka celebrates after scoring twice against Copenhagen
GettyImagesNicolas Anelka celebrates after scoring twice against Copenhagen
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A brace from Nicolas Anelka relieved the pressure on boss Carlo Ancelotti, whose future has been the subject of intense speculation this week, and kept Chelsea firmly in the hunt for the trophy that owner Roman Abramovich craves.
Ancelotti's gamble prior to kick-off was to start Fernando Torres as the spearhead of a three-man attack, with Didier Drogba relegated to the bench, as he tried to reverse the Blues' fortunes following their tame FA Cup exit to Everton last weekend.
The Italian's nerves were soothed by Chelsea's confident start to the match, which got the reward it deserved after 17 minutes when Nicolas Anelka fired under Johan Wiland from 15 yards after Jesper Gronkjaer, a former Chelsea player, gave the ball to him.
The visitors should have extended their lead during a first half that they dominated against opponents playing in their first competitive match since December 7. Torres was heavily involved for the Blues - although his finishing let him down.
Chelsea pulled further ahead with their first meaningful attack after the break. Anelka struck on 52 minutes after latching onto Frank Lampard's through ball and firing low and across Wiland's body from just inside the area.
The Premier League side should have been out of sight shortly afterwards when Torres, who was having by far his most effective match for Chelsea, wriggled free in the box - but his fierce shot was expertly saved by Wiland's left hand. The quality of his performance was reflected in Ancelotti's decision to leave him on the pitch when introducing Drogba, with Anelka the man to make way - although Torres was withdrawn from the action in stoppage time as Ancelotti, who had gone some way to recovering his battered reputation, turned his attention to forthcoming Premier League assignments.
In Tuesday's other match, Lyon maintained their unbeaten record against Real Madrid by earning a 1-1 draw at the Stade Gerland.
After Lyon dominated the first half, with Bafetimbi Gomis guilty of spurning a golden chance from ten yards following an error from Iker Casillas, Madrid made a stirring start to the second period. Cristiano Ronaldo, who had been smothered by defenders throughout, curled a free-kick against the post, while Sergio Ramos rattled the bar with a header shortly afterwards.
Their pressure was rewarded when substitute Karim Benzema, playing against his former club, got on the end of Ronaldo's pass before sliding the ball under Hugo Lloris. But there was a late sting in the tail for Madrid as Gomis atoned for his earlier error by slotting home a cool finish from six yards after Cris' knockdown.