Chelsea boss claims Valencia win is a slap in the face to their critics





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Published on Dec 6, 2011

Chelsea reached the Champions League knockout phase as Didier Drogba inspired them to the win they required against Valencia at Stamford Bridge.

Manager Andre Villas-Boas took the bold decision to drop the vastly experienced Frank Lampard for a game that could have shaped the Blues boss's future - then saw another of Stamford Bridge's old guard prove the catalyst to confirm a place in the last 16 as Group E winners.

Drogba, who has been linked with a move as he holds out for a two-year contract, was in irresistible mood and terrorised Valencia throughout, scoring a goal in each half as Chelsea ran out emphatic winners, putting the Spanish side out of the competition in the process.

The Ivorian also played his part in Chelsea's second with a run of trademark power and purpose midway through the first half to set up Ramires, a goal which came just as Valencia threatened to work their way back into the game.

Chelsea's win and progress from the group stage was a rich reward for Villas-Boas's bravery in leaving out Lampard, completing a satisfactory few days for the 34-year-old Portuguese after a vital Premier League win at Newcastle United on Saturday.

Villas-Boas has been under the spotlight following Chelsea's recent struggles, but a measure of calm and stability can now be restored as they play for the familiar territory of the later stages of the Champions League.

Lampard remained an unused substitute but Chelsea's win more than justified Villas-Boas's decision to hand midfield responsibility to Ramires, Raul Meireles and impressive youngster Oriol Romeu.

For all the debate about Lampard, his absence was irrelevant in the opening exchanges as Drogba used all his physical presence to prey on Valencia's weaknesses.

He took only three minutes to settle the nerves around a noisy Stamford Bridge, taking advantage of good work by Valencia old boy Juan Mata to roll a left-foot finish beyond Diego Alves.

Valencia's response was robust and positive. Jordi Alba rattled the outside of an upright before David Albelda's long-range effort was splendidly clawed away by the diving Petr Cech.

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