We maintained our 100% winning form in the Champions league and went some way to banish the memories of our 2008 defeat in the Luzhniki Stadium with an impressive 2-0 victory at Spartak Moscow.
A stunning first-half goal from Yuri Zhukov and a second from Nicolas Anelka in the 34th minute gave us the momentum to secure a result that now puts us three points clear at the top of Group F.
We had plenty of possession in the opening exchanges but it was Spartak who engineered the first opportunity of the game in the 11th minute. A superb run through the heart of the Chelsea defence by Sergei Parshivlyuk saw him supply a perfect pass to the unmarked Dmitri Kombarov. The Spartak winger had time and space to pick his spot but sent his left-foot shot high over the bar from the edge of the penalty area.
In the 14th minute Petr Cech was Chelsea’s saviour when an outstretched right leg prevented Welliton’s volley from sneaking in at the near post.
Our response was immediate with Salomon Kalou finding Florent Malouda on the edge of the Spartak penalty area but his shot was just wide of the left-hand upright.
We went in front in the 23rd minute when John Obi Mikel’s long ball was knocked into the path of Zhirkov, who fired a 25-yard volley into the roof of the net. It was an outstanding goal and his first for Chelsea.
Anelka had another chance in the 37th minute when he latched onto a poor pass and ran clear of the Spartak defence. He’s usually so clinical in one-on-one situations, but this time lost control of the ball and Dykan was able to prevent us adding to our lead.
However he made up for it with a second goal in the 43rd minute.
He collected the ball after a driving run by Essien and then turned the Spartak defence inside out before placing a low shot under Dykan to score his 50th for the club.
Spartak began the second half in much brighter fashion but Ari sent the ball high over the bar.
A little later former Celtic man Aiden McGeady, who had been relatively quiet in the opening half, forced a corner for the home side with a dangerous 20-yard drive.Then Cech dealt with another McGeady effort easily as we coped with the Spartak onslaught
Kombarov brought a save from Cech in the 59th minute as the home side continued to search for a way back into the game.
Ibson might have reduced the deficit for Spartak after 63 minutes but his shot was tipped over by Cech who then kept out another effort from the same player moments later.
We were under the hammer a bit but managed to continue to repel the home side, Essien shot wide from 10 yards when a goal seemed certain to wrap things up as time began to run out for Spartak.
They drove forward and Cech dived low to claim another long-range effort from Ari in the 81st minute.
But we held on to maintain our perfect record in Europe this season and victory over the Moscow giants at Stamford Bridge in a fortnight’s time will guarantee us a first-place finish in the group.
Gill Reeves CSG Disabled rep.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry (c), Cole (Van Aanholt 86); Essien, Mikel, Zhirkov, Kalou (McEachran 71), Anelka, Malouda (Kakuta 80).
Unused subs Turnbull, B Clifford, Bruma, Mellis.
Scorers Zirkov 23, Anelka 42.
Spartak (4-2-3-1):Dykan; Parshivlyuk, Pareja, Suchy, Makeev; Ibson, Sheshukov; McGeady, Ari (Ananidze 84), Kombarov; Welliton.
Unused subs: Pesyakov, Sabitov, Stranzl, Ivanov, , Kozlov, Maidana.
Referee Carlos Velasco from Spain.
Shots on Spartak 10 Chelsea 3
Corners Spartak 11 Chelsea 5
Fouls Spartak 12 Chelsea 15
Offsides Spartak 1 Chelsea 2