Andriy Shevchenko and substitute Shaun Wright-Phillips scored their first UEFA Champions League goals for Chelsea FC as their team finished top of Group A following a comfortable victory over a PFC Levski Sofia side destined to prop up a difficult pool.
The goalscorers struck either side of half-time as Chelsea recorded a total of 13 points from a possible 18, which will fill them with confidence as they attempt to bring Europe's greatest club prize to London for the first time. The margin of defeat should have been more but Levski won new friends with the way they went about their night's work. Despite losing all six matches, the Bulgarian title-holders should be stronger for their first experience of the competition's lofty standards.
Indeed, the visitors were true to their word by taking the game to Chelsea wherever possible and facing their illustrious opponents toe-to-toe. Yet every time they made a mistake, punishment loomed. Stanimir Stoilov's men were nearly undone before most of them had enjoyed a first touch of the ball. Igor Tomašić was caught in possession, enabling Shevchenko to send Arjen Robben away down the left. He rounded goalkeeper Bozhidar Mitrev before cutting the ball back into the path of the Ukrainian international whose powerful drive was palmed away by the recovering Mitrev. The 19-year-old keeper will have been delighted by his contribution on his full UEFA Champions League debut.
Prompted into action
Levski responded with a couple of long-range efforts which failed to trouble Hilário, selected in place of Carlo Cudicini in Chelsea's goal. If the hosts were disturbed by that, it produced the desired effect as they proceeded to pin Levski in their own half. Frank Lampard, captain in the absence of the suspended John Terry, shot first time and with venom and Elin Topuzakov needed treatment after getting in the way.
Robben demanded a stretching save as he attempted to curl a strike into the far corner and two minutes later Chelsea had the lead. Robben and Lampard combined and when the ball was directed across the forward line, Shevchenko skilfully steered it past Mitrev's left hand with the outside of his boot. At the other end, Cédric Bardon got underneath the ball as he attempted to volley home when well placed but it was an isolated raid. Shevchenko missed with another diagonal drive while Ricardo Carvalho had a shot cleared off the line as Chelsea finished the first half in total command.
Always neat and tidy, the visitors sought to punish any Chelsea lethargy at the start of the second period and were only stopped short by a couple of close offside decisions. When Chelsea resumed on the offensive, Michael Ballack put a difficult volley over following Robben's corner. Wayne Bridge was doing his best to impress on his return to the side in Ashley Cole's place. One measured cross was almost put on a plate for Didier Drogba but Mitrev was there first, though it came at the cost of a blow to the head. The whole Levski team were left reeling, however, on 83 minutes when Carvalho followed his surge down the right with a pass inside to Wright-Phillips, who shot from outside the box and beyond Mitrev's outstretched right hand.