Chelsea 3 Olympiakos 0
A virtuoso performance in perfect harmony from two of the world’s best midfielders saw Chelsea romp home against Olympiakos at Stamford Bridge last night.
This was no ordinary victory, though. In the realm of the Champions League, where only the best get on, Chelsea were masterful.
Ever since his free transfer from Bayern Munich two years ago and his much-publicised mega-salary, Germany captain Ballack has found it difficult to live up to the hero status of England star Lamps.
While Lampard has shown again and again his value to the Blues, Ballack has had to overcome injury and poor form.
Romp at West Ham
But he has finally started to show the quality which saw Chelsea outbid Europe’s biggest teams to sign him. And he is doing it with the help of Lampard. Between them, the pair earn around £250,000 a week.
But last night they were priceless as Chelsea booked their place in the Champions League quarter-finals.
A goal apiece — each helping the other to score — followed a similar show of excellence in the 4-0 romp at West Ham last Saturday.
And all on a night which could have been far more tricky for Avram Grant’s Blues.
With keeper Petr Cech unable to start because of an ankle injury which may yet keep him out of Saturday’s FA Cup clash at Barnsley, the omens were all in Olympiakos’ favour.
Add to that the referee was Manuel Gonzalez, who oversaw Chelsea’s Champions League semi-final defeat to Liverpool last season, and it looked a bit dodgy.
Not for long though. The seeds of the partnership which looked so fruitful against West Ham were soon in full bloom.
Ballack scored Chelsea’s third at Upton Park but he was quicker off the mark against the Greeks.
Lampard flighted a perfect sixth-minute cross to the German, whose header beat Antonios Nikopolidis at the near post. It was a sweet moment for Ballack, who feared he may be dropped.
In the end it was Michael Essien who stayed on the bench in what proved a cute move by boss Grant. Joe Cole was another who proved himself in the Premier League clash and he was given licence to roam across the frontline last night.
Cole came close on a couple of occasions but it was dynamic duo Ballack and Lamps who put Chelsea out of sight.
With Olympiakos struggling to cope with an attack which flooded at them in numbers, the Blues’ new midfield partnership struck again after 25 minutes.
This time Ballack was sent free to face the keeper one-on-one.
But when his shot was deflected, guess who followed up and swept the ball into the open goal? Yes, super Frank was on hand to notch his 103rd goal for Chelsea. After Grant admitted the Champions League is the club’s priority this season, Lamps’ goal looked invaluable as this contest raced towards half-time.
Having produced an accomplished display in Athens, Olympiakos were expected to provide much tougher opposition in London than this.
But all they had to show for the first period was a cross from Vassilis Torosidis which had keeper Carlo Cudicini mildly flustered before Paulo Ferreira cleared. Apart from a late flurry, that was the sum of Olympiakos’ threat.
Not Chelsea’s though. Just after the break they won a corner on the right and it was three.
Lampard delivered a bending cross which Didier Drogba and Ricardo Carvalho touched on for Salomon Kalou to tuck home the third.
Terry was magnificent
It was more proof of Chelsea’s utter domination and made their bid to be crowned kings of Europe more credible.
A scoreline which was already the most convincing of any of the first knockout-phase games pressed home their claims.
At the back, John Terry was magnificent in winning every aerial challenge while marshalling the defence to make the visitors look more like tourists.
Grant could afford to withdraw Kalou, Lamps and Joe Cole in a second period which should have seen Drogba on the scoresheet as well.
His effort was wrongly ruled offside, though it barely mattered.
Chelsea march on in another competition and now face Barnsley with their hopes of making this a memorable season even greater than before.
The third of four English sides to reach the last eight in Europe, this is becoming as intense a race as the Premier League.
And with Lamps and Ballack in this kind of form, anything is possible for Chelsea.
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