Chelsea FC became the first side this season to claim a place in the UEFA Champions League first knockout round as Arjen Robben's goal proved enough for victory away against PFC CSKA Moskva.
José Mourinho's bid to lift the trophy in consecutive seasons with different clubs had got off to a perfect start with Chelsea having won their first three Group H games, and they took that tally to four - enough to clinch first place - with a cool-headed performance more than a little reminiscent of FC Porto at their best last term.
Having lost at Stamford Bridge 2-0 on Matchday 3, CSKA have since closed in on the Russian title, but on Saturday were held 1-1 by FC Krylya Sovetov Samara and lost midfield player Evgeny Aldonin to injury. He was on the bench today, with Miloš Krasic, the man that replaced him at the weekend, starting.
With Didier Drogba sidelined through injury, Mourinho fielded a three-man attack with Eidur Gudjohnsen flanked by Arjen Robben and Damien Duff. William Gallas replaced Wayne Bridge at left-back and Claude Makelele came into midfield to deny Aleksei Smertin a place on his return to Moscow.
It was Chelsea's first competitive match in Russia and they found themselves under pressure early on, conceding a succession of corners. But Petr Cech in goal and defensive partners John Terry and Ricardo Carvalho were in no mood to allow CSKA any real chances. As Jirí Jarošik and Vágner Love found themselves frustrated, Robben started to show his intent, and on 24 minutes he put Chelsea in front.
Duff was the creator as he picked up the ball in the CSKA box and sent a clever back-heel to Robben in the centre. The Dutch winger, only recently back from injury, jinked past his marker before calmly striking his first goal for Chelsea.
Suddenly CSKA found themselves on the defensive, with Robben especially full of energy. Gallas did have to block a Sergei Semak shot, but the CSKA player was forced to clear a Gudjohnsen effort off the line not long afterwards. Cech then saved from Vágner Love, but Chelsea ended the half dominating possession.
Within 90 seconds of the restart, though, CSKA - who had brought on Aldonin - had a golden chance to equalise. Glen Johnson tripped Yuri Zhirkov in the box, but Vágner Love scooped his penalty over the bar.
Jarošik goes close
Mourinho was forced to deploy Paulo Ferreira at left-back when Gallas limped off in the 54th minute and CSKA began to stretch the Chelsea defence. Jarošik headed wide from a corner, and the Czech playmaker then had a strong shot from outside the box saved by Cech.
Croatian striker Ivica Olic was pressed into action 20 minutes from time as CSKA continued to find themselves frustrated. But it was Chelsea who began to move forward, sparked by the arrival of Mateja Kezman in attack.
Jarošik went close in the dying minutes with a bicycle kick, while Frank Lampard had a low drive well saved by Igor Akinfeev but despite coach Valeri Gazzaev and former president Boris Yeltsin's urgings, CSKA could not force another clear-cut chance.
The Russian side remained second on head-to-head record after PSG's draw with FC Porto tonight - which decided the group in Chelsea's favour. CSKA welcome Porto on 24 November and Chelsea meet PSG on the same day, but the 2003/04 semi-finalists can already turn their minds to late February, when they begin their knockout bid.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.