Chelsea made sure of topping Group E by beating Steaua 1-0 at Stamford Bridge. That result left them with 12 points, two clear of Germans Schalke who beat Basle 2-0 at home to secure their own passage to the next round.
The win was vital to the Blues’ hopes of progression to the final eight as it now means they will avoid Real Madrid, PSG, Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Athletico Madrid in the next round. Those big guns all topped their groups, as did Man United and Borussia Dortmund, the latter pipping Arsenal to top spot in Group F after last night’s games.
Jose Mourinho will be delighted his side have got the job done and also that they kept a clean sheet but after dominating possession so heavily he would have hoped for a more convincing scoreline.
The home side took the lead after just 10 minutes when Demba Ba scored from Oscar’s flick-on. The Blues had started fast and were good value for their goal but it wasn’t too long before the away side created a good chance of their own, Gabriel Iancu wasting Bucharest’s best chance when one on one with Mark Schwarzer, the youngster pulling a tame effort wide of goal.
Overall Chelsea had almost 70% of the ball and with twice as many shots as the Romanians they should certainly have scored more. Both Ba and Eden Hazard missed excellent opportunities to extend the Blues’ lead and their inability to do so will have frustrated The Special One who had called for his side to be more clinical in front of goal. There were further chances for Ba and Hazard, whilst even before the early opener David Luiz or Oscar could have opened the scoring.
However, there were certainly positives for the Pensioners, with a very good performance from much maligned Brazilian, Willian, who controlled the midfield and showed excellent passing range. Equally, the clean sheet will have satisfied the boss after conceding seven in their last three, including three at Stoke last time out and another three at Sunderland prior to that.
Much as Mourinho claimed those goals were down to bad luck rather than poor defending, this clean sheet will give the Pensioners confidence and with a trip to Arsenal looming just before Christmas and a League Cup quarter before that, this result stands them in good stead.
More importantly though, as said, it means they avoid the big boys – as well as Arsenal and Man City – in the next round. Chelsea will face either Bayer Leverkusen, Galatasaray, Olympiakos, Zenit St Petersburg or AC Milan and would feel confident against any of those, especially with Milan down in ninth in Serie A.
Leverkusen, second in the Bundesliga, would be the toughest draw but given Man United beat them home and away in Group A, John Terry and co would still fancy their chances.
The draw for the next round will be made in Nyon, Switzerland, on the 16th December.