A stunning first-half strike from Yuri Zhirkov on his return to Russia helped Chelsea FC maintain their perfect UEFA Champions League Group F record with a deserved victory at FC Spartak Moskva.
Both sides came into the game with a maximum six points, but it was the visitors who added to that tally thanks to Zhirkov and a second just before half-time by the excellent Nicolas Anelka. A repeat victory when these sides meet at Stamford Bridge on 3 November would book Chelsea's round of 16 place.
After winning their first UEFA Champions League match at the Luzhniki Stadion since 2000 last time out against MŠK Žilina, Spartak were hoping to extend that run against Chelsea. And the capacity crowd could have had something to really shout about had Dmitri Kombarov not shot over from inside the area after only ten minutes.
Instead the visitors broke the deadlock midway through the first half. Zhirkov jumped on a loose ball, smashing an unstoppable drive past the helpless Andriy Dykan to score his first ever goal for the London club. Spartak, who were clearly missing the creativity of their injured captain, Alex, had plenty of possession, but Welliton cut a forlorn figure up front, such was the dominance of John Terry and Branislav Ivanović in the centre of Chelsea's defence.
Anelka was causing Spartak's back four all sorts of problems with his movement, and he could have doubled his side's lead on 38 minutes, after latching on to a back pass, but could not fins the target. However the French striker made no mistake two minutes before half-time, as he slotted the ball past Dykan, having been found by a fabulous through ball from Michael Essien.
Spartak upped the tempo in the second half, with Aiden McGeady, who had been subdued before the break, forcing Petr Čech into making a couple of smart saves. But for all their intricate interplay, the home side never really looked like reducing the deficit, and had to resort to long-range efforts.
Chelsea, were content to sit back and defend, but they could have extended their lead late on, with Essien missing a good chance. Ultimately, though, victory was secure.
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