Schurrle and Mata ensure Chelsea reign in Romania

Posted by Phil Lythell

Ramires celebrates after putting Chelsea in front in Romania.PA PhotosRamires celebrates after putting Chelsea in front in Romania.

Chelsea put in a fantastic away performance as they cruised past Steaua Bucharest 4-0. The win gets the Blues' Champions League campaign back on track after having been stunned by FC Basel on Matchday One, and the prospect of not just qualifying for the knockout stages but of topping the group is once more a real possibility.

The Londoners visited the same stadium to play the same opponents in March, but whereas Rafael Benitez's team put in a lacklustre display in a 1-0 defeat, Jose Mourinho's boys dominated from start to finish and never looked in danger of emerging from Romania with anything other than a victory.

The key to their success was to begin the game at a high tempo, which they maintained for the majority of the contest. On the front foot, Chelsea could have scored in the opening minute, but the team's hunger was epitomised by Fernando Torres' dogged tracking back as he hustled a Steaua midfielder off the ball to set another attack in motion. Lessons from the first half at Tottenham had clearly been learned and there was to be no holding back against the next unfortunate opponents.

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There were many impressive individual contributions on the night, though Juan Mata's return to the starting lineup ensured that Chelsea were both composed and incisive. The little magician was at his impish best as he controlled the match and pulled the strings in his own inimitable way. Like a chess grandmaster, Mata always seemed to be a couple of moves ahead of the opposition, yet ready to react to a sudden change of tack. He played a vital role in Chelsea's opening two strikes of the match -- a neat flick releasing Ramires, who eventually tucked the ball away for the first, and then slipping in Samuel Eto'o to create the situation that led to the hapless Daniel Georgievski putting the ball through his own net -- and was unlucky not to get on the score sheet himself when his second-half shot cannoned back off the post. It was no more than Chelsea fans have come to expect from the Spaniard, though this performance coupled with his impact as a substitute at White Hart Lane will surely have convinced Jose Mourinho of his importance to any future success the team might achieve.

Equally as crucial to the win was Andre Schurrle. It was the 22-year-old's best display in a Chelsea shirt by some distance as he tormented Daniel Georgievski from the first whistle. Steaua's impetuous full-back had obviously been identified by Mourinho as a weak link and Schurrle executed his manager's plan with ruthless efficiency. Always keen to go around the outside of the defender, he made the left flank Chelsea's most fruitful area of attack and it was his cheeky spin and run that teed up Ramires' second goal of the night, after he also played a pivotal role in the Brazilian's opener. Mourinho's embrace of the young forward in celebration said it all, though he will also know that Schurrle will need to be more consistent in delivering his final ball if he is to become a permanent fixture in the starting 11.

Defensively Chelsea were largely untroubled, with only some complacency late on providing Steaua with any glimpse of their goal. That was a product of a solid back five, but also of a steady screen in front of them in the form of Frank Lampard and Ramires. Lampard's vast experience makes him tailor-made for these occasions, while the Brazilian's phenomenal lungs and indomitable desire tore the heart out of Steaua's midfield, allowing him to bag a well-deserved brace in the process.

Despite the result and the all-round performance, there was the odd twinge of disappointment, not least Torres' early departure to injury. The striker will have been delighted to have escaped an extended ban earlier in the day for his injudicious swipe at Tottenham's Jan Vertonghen on Sunday, though his critics will surely cite karma for his dose of bad luck in Bucharest.

It is yet another unfortunate setback for Torres, though with him already sitting out next weekend's match at Norwich through suspension anyway and an international break to follow, should his medical scans make for positive reading he will hopefully hit the ground running against Cardiff City in 18 days' time.

With Torres having started to find his form, Mourinho will be desperate for that to be the case, especially with Eto'o still struggling for sharpness, but in the meantime the Special One can fly back to London confident that his team is slowly slipping into gear.

Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell


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