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Chelsea comeback clinches first place in Group F

Chelsea FC 2-1 MŠK Žilina
The home side recovered from Babatounde Bello's fine goal to take the points thanks to Daniel Sturridge and Florent Malouda.

Chelsea comeback clinches first place in Group F
Chelsea comeback clinches first place in Group F ©UEFA.com

A youthful Chelsea FC side needed a late winner from Florent Malouda to secure a fifth consecutive UEFA Champions League victory as they finished top of Group F.

Second-half goals from Daniel Sturridge and Florent Malouda came to the rescue of Carlo Ancelotti's reshuffled side, who fell behind to Babatounde Bello's fine 19th-minute strike for MŠK Žilina. The visitors were unrecognisable from the side that suffered a record 7-0 home defeat against Olympique de Marseille on Matchday 4, and looked set to earn their first point of the campaign despite Sturridge's equaliser six minutes after half-time, only for Malouda to pounce with four minutes of regulation time remaining.

Ancelotti made seven changes to the side that beat FC Spartak Moskva 4-1 on Matchday 4, notably handing a full debut to 17-year-old midfielder Josh McEachran and giving starts to defenders Patrick van Aanholt and Jeffrey Bruma, with Ross Turnbull between the posts. There was an understandable lack of the usual fluidity from the hosts in the opening stages, and the visitors took full advantage to snatch an unexpected advantage. Picking up the ball outside the area, Bello twice swapped passes neatly with Róbert Jež before steering a shot past Turnbull with his right foot.

It was just what the game needed, giving Tomáš Majtán the confidence to ghost past two Chelsea defenders before unleashing a vicious angled shot which Turnbull did well to block at his near post. At the other end, Sturridge and Malouda both tested Martin Dúbravka and the latter was particularly unlucky to see a thunderous 20-metre effort deflected away for a corner.

Ancelotti replaced Gaël Kakuta with Salomon Kalou at the interval and the Ivorian only needed six minutes to make an impact, his cross from the left somehow finding its way through for Sturridge to rifle in from an acute angle at the far post. With pressure mounting, Chelsea promptly set about looking for a winner and very nearly found it a few minutes later. Dúbravka was at full stretch to tip Didier Drogba's angled free-kick from the left on to the crossbar and Branislav Ivanović could only head over when Bruma pulled the ball back.

Van Aanholt had no better luck when his rasping shot hit the post, but Chelsea's experienced heads secured the points with time running out. Substitute Nicolas Anelka sent over the cross from the left, Drogba headed firmly down and Malouda stuck out a leg to guide the ball in.

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