Having registered the goal that clinched Chelsea FC's 2-0 win at FC Spartak Moskva, Nicolas Anelka promptly declared that his side had banished thoughts of their previous, unhappy UEFA Champions League visit to the Luzhniki Stadion.
Chelsea's sole appearance in the competition's showpiece game came at the Moscow arena in 2008, when they lost out to Manchester United FC following a penalty shoot-out. There was to be no repeat disappointment upon their return, however, as efforts from Yuri Zhirkov and Anelka took the English titleholders on to a perfect nine points, three clear of Spartak at the Group F summit.
For Anelka, who missed the decisive spot kick during that shoot-out, Chelsea's final defeat had absolutely no bearing on their match with Spartak. "
You know what happened here two or three years ago, but it doesn't matter any more; it's in the past," he said. "We came here to play our football and win the game, and that's what we did."
It also proved to be a happy return to the Russian capital for Zhirkov, who called this stadium home during a five-and-a-half-year spell with Spartak's bitter rivals PFC CSKA Moskva. While Anelka could celebrate firing in his 50th Chelsea goal, Zhirkov's opener was his first since his 2009 move from CSKA. "He was playing in his home country and he showed his quality and he showed why he's playing for a club like Chelsea," said Anelka.
Spartak came into the game hoping to spring a surprise on a Chelsea squad hit by injuries, but despite playing some elegant football they only ever tested Petr Čech from long range. Indeed, the usually effective wing play of Dmitri Kombarov and Aiden McGeady was blunted by John Terry and Branislav Ivanović in the heart of the visiting defence, while the creativity of injured captain Alex was sorely missed. As McGeady explained: "Not having a player like Alex is always going to hinder you."
The teams meet again at Stamford Bridge on 3 November – when Chelsea could seal a round of 16 place – and Anelka suggested why the Blues' injury problems have not held them back, either in Europe or the Premier League. "We have a big squad and some big players, and even when we have players missing, we have quality on the bench and we showed that today," he said.
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