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Chelsea FC wrapped up top spot in UEFA Champions League Group D with a game to spare with a win at FC Porto and just as on Matchday 1 in London, a single Nicolas Anelka strike was enough to separate the already-qualified sides.
First place secure
Anelka had looked menacing all match before his simple 69th-minute header from a Florent Malouda cross. Until then the closest either team had come to breaking the deadlock was a ferocious first-half shot from Porto midfielder Fernando Belluschi which rebounded off the crossbar. Porto closed strongly but could not do enough to prevent the Premier League leaders continuing their impressive recent form and making it seven wins from eight in all competitions.
The game took some time to warm up. What threat Chelsea posed came down the left through Malouda, wide in a diamond midfield, and his lively French international colleague Anelka who forced European debutant Beto into the first save of his UEFA Champions League career. Didier Drogba and Michael Ballack both had efforts deflected wide, giving the Estádio do Dragão the chance to fête one of its favourite sons as former Porto favourite Deco, who helped them win this competition in 2003/04, took the Chelsea corners.
Midway through the half Porto sprung into life. Petr Čech could only palm an accurate Belluschi shot from outside the box into the path of Falcao but the Czech goalkeeper showed marvellous reactions to deny the Colombian his third Group D goal, smothering the striker's follow-up from point-blank range. Porto tails were up. On the half-hour John Mikel Obi gave the ball away in midfield and the home side broke forward at pace, Belluschi crashing a curling shot against the bar with Čech beaten.
Early in the second half Deco could have marked his return to Porto with a goal but volleyed wide after collecting Rolando's headed clearance. Chelsea were beginning to assert themselves and Malouda sent in a couple of testing low deliveries from the left, although neither Drogba nor Anelka were in a position to meet them.
In a bid to regain the initiative, Porto coach Jesualdo Ferreira brought on Hulk in place of Silvestre Varela and the newly-capped Brazilian international attacker was quickly into the action, acrobatically volleying over the Chelsea goal. For the visitors the quiet Ballack was replaced by Michael Essien and it was a typically powerful run from the Ghanaian midfielder which precipitated the opening goal. The ball broke to Zhirkov, who laid off to Malouda on the left and this time Anelka was on hand to head in the simplest of chances from his compatriot's cross. Hulk continued to threaten as Porto chased an equaliser to keep themselves in the hunt for first place but to no avail.
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