A much-changed Chelsea side won in the final game of their Champions League group, condemning Sporting to the Europa League. Goals from Cesc Fabregas, Andre Schurrle and John Obi Mikel helped Chelsea to the victory, which lent a helping hand to a Chelsea legend in the process.
The build up to this game was dominated by talk of a player who didn’t even start, with Ruben Loftus-Cheek taking up a place on the bench but the 18-year-old was heavily tipped to make his debut. Several Chelsea stars were left out, but Diego Costa surprisingly started up front.
Filipe Luis was one of those who came into the side, and he made an instant impact. Luis has been limited to Champions League games mainly, so we’ve seen little of him bombing forward. He did that here, and he was brought down in the box by Ricardo Esgaio. Fabregas stepped up to the spot and scored, despite many thinking Costa would be the one to take it with Eden Hazard missing out.
That lead was doubled less than 10 minutes later, when Andre Schurrle blasted home a low shot with his right foot. The German has been struggling with illness of late, which has affected his performances on the pitch. This game was a welcome return to form for him, something he needed if he was to go on and push for a starting spot in the coming weeks.
Sporting hit back in the second half, with defender Jonathan Silva pulling one back just five minutes after the break. It was a well taken goal, chesting it down before putting the ball past Petr Cech, who was getting a rare start in goal. That goal briefly ignited hope for Sporting, who needed a point to guarantee a spot in the last 16.
Sadly for them, that hope was short lived. The Blues reopened their two goal lead just six minutes later, with Mikel the unlikely source. Fabregas once again delivered the ball, this time from a free kick. Gary Cahill flicked the ball on, and there was Mikel at the back post to tap it home from the shortest of distances. On replay, there were questions of offside, but the goal stood to give Mikel his first of the season.
There were a few chances after that, but Mikel’s goal almost ended the contest. Loftus-Cheek made his appearance with just under 10 minutes to go, and despite a few heavy touches he looked talented, going on a run at the Sporting defence before being fouled. While he’s not likely to break in the team any time soon, he looks like a great prospect.
That win meant that Schalke had the chance to go second in the group, and they duly did so with a 1-0 win at Maribor. Roberto Di Matteo has his former club to thank for helping his current side in to the Champions League last 16. After the 5-0 win over them a few weeks ago, Mourinho wouldn’t mind meeting them again later in the competition.
LCN Man of the Match: Cesc Fabregas