By Trevor Haylett at Stamford Bridge
Sometimes the long ball is best. For all the attractive football Chelsea FC have produced this season with the incisive distribution of Frank Lampard or the nimble skills of Damien Duff, Arjen Robben and Joe Cole, last night they profited from the most basic tactic of all.
It is percentage football, the option of the direct route from back to front, bypassing the creative brains in midfield and seeing what develops when your striker and the opposing centre-half battle it out in a contest of physical supremacy. The approach served Chelsea handsomely at Stamford Bridge as it supplied the early advantage they seem to specialise in on these big European nights. John Terry drilled the ball long and high in the direction of Oliver Kahn's goal and although Robert Kovac won the header, his clearance fell straight to Duff. His astute pass found Joe Cole who got lucky as the ball deflected off Lucio and into the net.
Somewhere in his "private, peaceful place" the side's absent manager must have celebrated. But just to remind him that he was very much in their thoughts, the home crowd was soon giving full voice to another chorus of "José Mourinho". On that amazing night here against FC Barcelona in the previous round, all Chelsea's early goals - they scored three inside the first half-hour - had come as the result of swift manoeuvres, the ball passed with speed and precision. But having seen their first long ball of the night garner so much reward, who could blame them for trying to repeat the trick? Lucio and Kovac are no slouches in the air but they clearly did not relish the aerial prowess of Didier Drogba and it led to two more heart-stopping moments for the FC Bayern München defence before half-time.
When Petr Cech got great length on his kick, Drogba easily rose above Lucio and his header fell nicely to Eidur Gudjohnsen. But as the Icelandic international was about to pull the trigger, Kovac intervened with a vital challenge. Exactly the same routine resulted in Gudjohnsen shooting for goal ten minutes later, although a Bayern defender again got in the way to rescue his side. In contrast, the Bundesliga outfit preferred to keep the ball on the ground and put their faith in clever inter-passing. Michael Ballack was drifting in and out of the encounter, his contributions sporadic but always considered, while Zé Roberto was always willing to drift inside and test his pace and dribbling skills against the Chelsea defence.
While it remained 1-0 Bayern would not have been unduly worried. At 1-1, with Bastian Schwinsteiger making an immediate impact after leaving the bench at half-time, they were ecstatic. But their joy was short-lived as they were undone again when Chelsea put up another aerial offering for Drogba, who was clearly determined to make the difference having sat out the return game with FC Barcelona.
Glen Johnson was the server this time and after the Ivorian had headed down perfectly into Lampard's stride the low left-foot shot easily found its way past Oliver Kahn. Bayern's fragility had been exposed again, their legendary goalkeeper also succumbing to the pressure as he sliced a clearance and bizarrely opted to punch a low cross. But the night was to turn a whole lot worse for the visitors as Chelsea ran in two more goals before Ballack tucked away his penalty to leave the German side with some hope ahead of next week's return.
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