Didier Deschamps had called for his side to show the same physical prowess and counter-attacking guile that Manchester City had used last weekend to overcome us at Eastlands But his plan went awry when we took the lead in the seventh minute.
Florent Malouda’s shot was deflected for a corner and when Gael Kakuta aimed it at the near post, captain John Terry stole in to casually flick the ball home. No doubt JT does love scoring in the Champions League!
It was fairly familiar of late with our record for scoring early on and it could have been better minutes later had Malouda been able to prevent his 10-yard shot from going just over the Marseille crossbar.
Anelka, who was roundly booed by Marseille fans from the kick-off, brought a fine save from Steve Mandanda moments later after Kakuta’s ball had sent him racing in on goal.
Our night got even better in the 27th minute when Stephane Mbia was penalised for having handled Michael Essien’s attempted cross. The Marseille defender was booked for the misdemeanour and Anelka rubbed salt into the already riled Marseille fans wounds by tucking away the resultant spot-kick with ease.
Nico was a constant thorn in the side of Marseille and he was just a yard away from grabbing his second in the 42nd minute when he tried his luck from 20 yards.
Marseille had barely troubled Petr Cech in the opening half but the French champions picked up the pace after the restart. Andre-Pierre Gignac, who had been largely kept at bay by Terry and Alex, sent an overhead kick straight at Cech. Then once again in the 57th minute, Brandao tested Cech’s readiness with a 25-yard effort that Petr did really well to hold on to.
Marseille replaced Gignac and Benoit Cheyrou with Andre Ayew and Mathieu Valbuena moments later as they looked for a way back into the match.
Carlo Ancelotti reacted to Marseille’s changes opting to replace Kakuta with Ramires on the hour.
Ashley Cole and Terry then combined to keep out a fierce shot from Souleymane Diawara.
We went close to adding our third in the 67th minute when a fantastic 35-yard free-kick from Alex hit the inside of the post with Marseille goalkeeper Mandanda well beaten. Such was the force of the shot that the upright seemed to reverberate for a full 30 seconds.
A short while later and Malouda fed Ramires in the inside-left channel who calmly laid the ball into the path of the onrushing Essien. But he sent his thunderous right-foot shot against the post.
Carlo replaced Zhirkov in favour of Daniel Sturridge and the youngster was later joined by teenager Josh McEachran, who replaced John Obi Mikel. Moments later Sturridge nearly had a chance to score when Anelka and Ashley Cole combined superbly down the left to provide him with the opportunity.
Sturridge met Cole’s cross on the edge of the six-yard box but somehow managed to turn the ball beyond the far post.
In the 89th minute Essien was narrowly wide when Cole picked him out on the edge of the penalty area. Ess looked to have got everything right but his left-foot effort spun inches beyond Mandanda’s right-hand post.
It was the last chance of a game which was comfortable for the most part throughout even if we might have closed it out a little sooner leaving us top of the group with a trip to Moscow in a fortnight’s time
Chelsea are now ahead of Spartak Moscow on goal difference after the Russians defeated MSK Zilina 3-0.
Gill Reeves CSG representative