Nicolas Anelka went a long way to dispelling the cloud of doubt that has enveloped Chelsea FC of late with both goals at FC København as the visitors racked up a healthy first-leg cushion.
Left with the UEFA Champions League as their only realistic target this term following their weekend FA Cup exit, the London club set about the task with admirable focus. January signing Fernando Torres was inevitably under the microscope once again in the Danish capital, but it was strike partner Anelka who profited most from Carlo Ancelotti's 4-4-2 formation, slotting in on 17 minutes before leaving his side in firm control with another assured finish after the break.
True to their pre-match promise Chelsea made a busy and determined start at the Parken Stadion, as Florent Malouda and Frank Lampard fired off-target before a miscued Ramires effort left Torres in possession close to goal on the right. In a prime position to open his Chelsea account, the former Liverpool FC striker failed to pounce, allowing Johan Wiland to dive at his feet and clear.
The hosts gradually felt their way into the game after that but just as they seemed to be competing on equal terms, Chelsea made the breakthrough. Jesper Grønkjær was guilty of a misplaced pass near the halfway line and the erstwhile Blues winger could only watch in horror as Anelka raced down the right and blasted low into the net.
An increasingly lively Torres then teased his way past Mathias Zanka Jørgensen and forced Wiland to save with his legs, before failing to get a full touch after being played in behind the FCK defence. He, Anelka and Malouda were all making inroads and their opponents barely registered as an attacking force: set pieces seemed their surest route to an equaliser in the first half.
Even those were proving to be rare occurrences and that prompted Ståle Solbakken to introduce an extra midfielder in the form of Martin Vingaard after the interval. On for César Santin, the Denmark international made an immediate impact, requiring Petr Čech to perform a first save from just outside the area and then snatching at a chance to lob the Chelsea No1.
If those opportunities gave the Parken Stadion faithful hope, it was quickly snuffed out again as Anelka doubled his tally, rifling crisply into the far corner after being picked out by a superb Lampard pass. Torres soon looked set to join him on the scoresheet too, twisting and turning on the edge of the area only to be thwarted by Wiland at full stretch.
FCK's night deteriorated further when right-back Zdeněk Pospěch collected a yellow card that will keep him out of the 16 March decider, but they were at least spared a third goal when Oscar Wendt cleared a goal-bound effort from Torres. At the other end Čech's comfortable handling from late Vingaard, Claudemir and Dame N'Doye attempts was a microcosm of his side's dominant display.