Kalou double helps Chelsea stroll
Chelsea put themselves on the brink of qualification for the knockout stage of the UEFA Champions League with a comfortable 4-0 victory over Atletico Madrid. A goal in each half from Salomon Kalou, a fine drive from Frank Lampard and an own goal from Luis Perea kept the undefeated Blues top of Group D.
Chelsea now have nine points from three games and have yet to concede a goal in Europe this season. The defensive frailties which have dogged their last two away defeats in the Premier League were not evident against Atletico.
That was due, in part perhaps, to coach Carlo Ancelotti's decision to axe Portugal defender Ricardo Carvalho from the team. The Portuguese was largely blamed for the defensive errors which allowed Aston Villa to score twice from corners in their 2-1 victory on Saturday.
He paid the ultimate price for his lapses in concentration and Chelsea looked much more solid with Branislav Ivanovic alongside captain John Terry at the heart of the defence. Yet it took the home side a while before they gained the upper hand against an Atletico side suffering their poorest league start to a season since 1994.
Kalou, who eventually became the hero on the night, should have opened his account way before his 41st minute opener. In the second minute, he headed a cross from Juliano Belletti wide of the target from six yards and 14 minutes later shot wide of the target with only Sergio Asenjo to beat.
And by the time of that second miss, Chelsea could even have been a goal behind. A lovely cross from Simao in the ninth minute was met by Diego Forlan at the near post, but the former Manchester United forward's diving header was brilliantly saved by Petr Cech.
Another warning for Chelsea arrived moments later when the impressive Sergio Aguero sped clear of the defence only to shoot into the side netting. Chelsea were denied the lead in the 12th minute when Frank Lampard's 40-yard free-kick deceived Asenjo on its way into the net, Kalou having drifted into an offside position.
Cech had to be at his best again in the 18th minute when he punched away a volley from Forlan. But Chelsea's pressure was beginning to tell on the Spanish side and Kalou forced Asenjo into another fine save in the 35th minute.
And the breakthrough eventually arrived in the 41st minute thanks to a superb move. Lampard's pass to Ashley Cole was dummied brilliantly by Michael Ballack and when the England left-back delivered his cross into the six-yard box, Kalou pounced to fire into the roof of the net.
It could have been two straight after the restart, but Asenjo punched away a shot from Nicolas Anelka and then did the same with a long throw from Belletti. But Kalou supplied the second goal when he rose highest to head home a corner from Lampard.
Atletico responded immediately and Aguero should have reduced the arrears in the 56th minute, when he escaped the clutches of the Chelsea defence and ran towards the Shed End unchecked. But he waited too long and his shot was superbly saved by Cech.
Chelsea were now stretching Madrid's midfield considerably and a third goal cemented a fine performance in the 69th minute. It was only Lampard's second competitive club goal of the season and his first from open play, but it was a typical 20-yard low drive from the England midfielder which beat Asenjo at his near post.
Madrid almost put a dent in Chelsea's defensive record in Europe when substitute Maxi Rodriguez dribbled his way through before putting his shot inches wide of the post with Cech beaten. Cech was again called upon in the 81st minute as Aguero tested him with a ferocious drive.
But the Czech international was equal to the task and punched the ball clear before saving with his feet from Maxi. Chelsea finished off the night with a fourth when Perea headed Florent Malouda's free-kick into his own net.