Thursday November 29, 2007
Dominic Fifield at Lerkendal Stadium, The Guardian
Rosenborg BK 0-4 Chelsea
07′ 0-1 Drogba
20′ 0-2 Drogba
40′ 0-3 Alex
73′ 0-4 Cole
The Champions League was supposed to have done away with mismatches like this. Chelsea claimed Group B at a canter last night, ripping a floundering Rosenborg side to shreds and ensuring that, when this competition resumes for the knockout phase in the new year, they will be paired with a runner-up rather than a group winner. Avram Grant’s conviction that a first European Cup can be secured in Moscow next May remains unswayed.
This was a frighteningly comfortable evening against this season’s supposed surprise package. The locals had arrived in this arena braced for temperatures to plummet to around -6C. In the end, they departed just grateful that their side’s goal difference had not quite followed suit.
It is hard to believe that these two teams could not be separated at Stamford Bridge back in September, when Jose Mourinho selected his last Chelsea line-up and Grant still peered out from the back of the dug-out. The Israeli can now survey this group from the summit.
Yet, poor as Rosenborg were, Chelsea were admirably ruthless. Crucially, Didier Drogba had been absent injured for the section’s opening fixture. Last night, recovered from a knee complaint, he was simply irresistible to leave the home side gasping at the gulf in class. The Ivorian spent much of the first period either clutching his back or hobbling around the turf watching his team-mates dominate possession but, just as a Gordon Greenidge limp invariably signalled an imminent century, so Rosenborg should have known Drogba was in the mood.
He might have scored after 58 seconds and could have secured a hat-trick in the first 20 minutes. By then he had managed two splendid goals, however, the first battered into the roof of the net to set the tone after Lars Hirschfeld could only palm away the excellent Joe Cole’s fizzed attempt from distance. When Shaun Wright-Phillips and Michael Essien combined midway through the half, Rosenborg’s defenders crumpled in an untidy if obliging heap and Drogba curled a second into the corner.
Drogba will be missed in the new year when the African Cup of Nations takes him away for up to a month. “Ask me how to replace him in January when it comes to December. We’ll lose four very important players from our squad for a long time. It won’t be easy, but we cannot change it. There was a lot out there to please us. We scored four good goals and created plenty of other chances.”
Others were just as impressive. Joe Cole tormented dithering markers all night, his fine run proving to be the prelude to Drogba’s opener, and the England man eventually earned his own reward by tapping in the rebound when the overworked Hirschfeld could only palm out Essien’s drive 17 minutes from time. The Ghanaian and Frank Lampard dominated central midfield throughout, Claude Makelele harrying at their backs, with Wright-Phillips a busy presence on the right. The winger clipped the woodwork early in the second half, but by that time the game was already won.
Some five minutes before the interval Alex stepped up to slap a low free-kick from 35 yards which scuttled across the icy turf and beyond the unsighted goalkeeper’s delayed dive.
That was a goal more in keeping with the popular 1990s computer game Sensible Soccer than a Champions League tie, but it rather summed up the Norwegian side’s glaring deficiencies. Rosenborg may have drawn the group’s opening fixture in London, but they are a side who could finish only fifth in their domestic league this time around. Now they need to avoid defeat when they travel to Schalke on December 11 to reach the last 16.