An early Demba Ba goal was enough for Chelsea FC to finish as group winners for the eighth time in the last 11 campaigns and condemn FC Steaua Bucureşti to the unwanted statistic of the side with the longest UEFA Champions League run without a victory – 23 games.
Chelsea lost twice in Group E to the team who finished third – FC Basel 1893 – but triumphed in all four of their other fixtures, scoring 11 times without reply. In the game's decisive moment, Ba pounced at the far post after Oscar had headed on Willian's near-post corner.
José Mourinho's pre-match demand that Chelsea go out to end the group stage with "a good feeling" removed any possibility of complacency and they soon had the visitors back-pedalling. They should have scored after two minutes when David Luiz, returning to the side for the first time since 2 November, escaped his marker but then failed to connect sweetly.
The Brazil defender was one of five changes to the team who had succumbed to a second defeat against Basel two weeks ago. Mark Schwarzer replaced Petr Čech in goal for his UEFA Champions League debut. The early indications were that he could enjoy a relatively quiet night.
Oscar surged forward and shot wide. Then with nine minutes on the clock Willian's set piece found Oscar, who diverted it to the far post for Ba to bundle in. At that point the Chelsea No19 had played 38 minutes of UEFA Champions League football and scored two goals. Eat your heart out Cristiano Ronaldo.
Steaua, bottom of the group and missing their influential captain Alexandru Bourceanu through suspension, were facing another uphill task. Within minutes they should have equalised as Gabriel Iancu was put clear with only Schwarzer to beat. Relief was written all over Chelsea faces as the midfielder slipped the ball the wrong side of the post.
Some of Chelsea's play became sloppy. Perhaps they were in a comfort zone because they seemed capable of scoring at will. From Eden Hazard’s whipped-in centre, Branislav Ivanović sent a strong header goalwards and Ciprian Tătăruşanu’s reflexes were exemplary.
Ba spoiled his copybook by lifting over from point blank range in the second half after Willian had bent a lovely ball into his path. It would not prove costly in terms of the result, but it illustrated why some observers think Mourinho will increase his striking options in the January window. Later Hazard headed over with the goal gaping. The home crowd were imploring their team to score a second, but it would not arrive.
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