Chelsea FC eased their way into the UEFA Champions League knockout rounds with a comfortable defeat of Valencia CF which also ensured them top spot in Group E.
It was not the tense occasion perhaps envisaged by the London side's supporters, with Didier Drogba's third-minute goal settling any early nerves. Valencia then dominated possession but could not force a breakthrough and hestitant defending enabled Ramires to add a second midway through the first half, Drogba making it three in the 76th minute. With hopes high of qualifying before kick-off, the Spanish side now head for the UEFA Europa League with the loss confirming them in third.
An early goal was just the start Chelsea were after, yet they could not have dared dream it would materialise so soon. Daniel Sturridge created the opportunity with a flighted ball to the far post which Juan Mata gathered before setting up Drogba. The striker worked the ball on to his left foot and while it was not his sweetest connection and goalkeeper Diego Alves put a glove on it, it still squeezed inside the far post.
It was evidence that Valencia's best form of defence was to attack. Within two minutes Jordi Alba fastened on to an incisive pass from Tino Costa and Chelsea were relieved to see his shot hit the outside of the post. A long-range David Albelda effort had Petr Čech at full stretch as the visitors kept the pressure on.
However their task got even harder in the 22nd minute. Drogba's strength in making ground over the halfway line was impressive but when he played the ball forward for Ramires it looked a race that Víctor Ruiz would win quite comfortably. However the defender hesitated and that was all the invitation Ramires needed to slide the ball beyond Alves.
Valencia will have been heartened by how much possession they enjoyed during the first half; discouraged by the paucity of the chances they had manufactured. The pattern continued after the interval, although Sofiane Feghouli did twice find himself in positions to score.
The first time he blazed over, the second drew a fine save from Čech as the 21-year-old midfielder got power behind a left-footed drive. However, the contest was as good as finished 14 minutes from time when Mata fed Drogba who scored with the outside of his right boot as Chelsea celebrated coming top of their group for the fifth time in six seasons.