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It was business as usual for Chelsea FC as, despite a few late scares caused by a determined APOEL FC side, a goal from Nicolas Anelka earned the Londoners' second successive 1-0 victory in Group D.
With Didier Drogba two games into a three-match UEFA Champions League suspension Anelka once again carried Chelsea's goalscoring burden in Nicosia, as he had done at home to FC Porto a fortnight ago. His 18th-minute breakthrough had been coming but the visitors failed to build on their advantage and were almost made to pay as an increasingly adventurous APOEL team mounted a late siege on their goal. Yet there would be no way through.
After a typically cautious start, the Premier League outfit gradually wrested control of the game and were almost in cruise control by the time Anelka – who had struck the only goal against Porto on Matchday 1 – broke the deadlock. Given freedom to roam down the right, Juliano Belletti attacked with purpose, making light work of Altin Haxhi before cutting the ball back to Anelka. The Frenchman still had a job to do but he did it with aplomb, firing his first-time shot inside Dionisios Chiotis's far post.
Despite Chelsea's dominance, the goalkeeper – APOEL's hero as they earned a point at Club Atlético de Madrid on their group-stage debut – otherwise had very little to do. Ashley Cole, Florent Malouda and Anelka all tried their luck from distance, yet with little menace, and on the counterattack the Cypriot champions began to ask questions of the Blues' back line. Christos Kontis and Nenad Mirosavljević both threatened, briefly, and it proved the platform for a much-improved second-half performance from the home side.
With the words of coach Ivan Jovanović doubtless ringing in their ears, the local favourites stepped up a gear after the restart, winning a succession of corners, although Chelsea stood firm. An injury worry before this fixture, striker Kamil Kosowski was introduced moments before the hour mark to add another dimension to the APOEL attack and, going into the final ten minutes, his team found one.
Raiding down the flanks, they started to peg back Chelsea as Belletti and Cole had done earlier in the contest and, with six minutes remaining, came their chance: Constantinos Charalambides sending his header a whisker wide. It was as close as they would get to restoring parity, despite the efforts of Jean Paulista and Kosowski, and Chelsea duly moved three points clear in Group D ahead of their meeting with Atlético in three weeks' time. Still on one point, APOEL can nevertheless travel to Porto in October with confidence intact.
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