Record Chelsea win prompts talk of another title assault
22 October 2014, 09:54
London - Chelsea scored their biggest Champions League victory when they thrashed Maribor 6-0 at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday with a performance that underlines the belief that they are real contenders to rule Europe again.
Fittingly two heroes from their 2012 final triumph over Bayern Munich -- the returning Didier Drogba and skipper John Terry -- were back among the goals along with the outstanding Eden Hazard.
Belgian midfielder Hazard played a pivotal role with a superb performance with two goals, one from the spot, as Jose Mourinho's men stretched their unbeaten run from the start of the season to 12 matches.
Veterans Drogba, 36, who also scored a penalty, and skipper Terry, 33, both scored in the first half, along with Loic Remy.
An own goal and Hazard's two came after the break with Chelsea now almost certain to make it to the last 16 and with Maribor's coach Ante Simundza saying his team simply had no answer to Chelsea's dominance, tipping them to go all the way this season.
"Chelsea were out of reach for us and are one of the favourites for the title. They have great individual quality and they were exceptional today," he told reporters afterwards.
Mourinho played down any talk of the title though, telling reporters: "We have played three group games and there are 12 games before you get to the final so there is a long way to go and this group isn't finished yet.
"First of all we have to win at Maribor and the result today does not mean we are going to win there. Schalke are in a good position, Sporting are a good team.
"But we have found a good balance we are playing well and we are confident."
The night's results left Chelsea top of Group G with seven points, followed by Schalke 04, who beat Sporting 4-3, on five, Maribor on two and Sporting on one.
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Maribor had no answer to Chelsea or Hazard, who capped his fine performance with a beautifully executed sixth in stoppage time to seal Chelsea's win.
Despite what followed, the Slovenian side had the first scoring chance but Damjan Bohar headed over after five minutes.
But although Maribor came searching for goals with an attacking lineup, it was Chelsea who scored them.
Remy made the early breakthrough when he collected a neat pass from Terry, cut inside past two defenders and curled home with his left foot, but he injured his groin in the process.
Three minutes later Drogba replaced him to loud applause from the Chelsea fans and seven minutes after that he gave them even more to cheer about after Willian's cross was handled by defender Ales Mertelj.
Dutch referee Danny Makkelie pointed to the spot and Drogba, who returned to Chelsea this season after two years away, scored his first goal for the club since the equaliser in the 2012 final by sending goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic the wrong way.
Drogba's last kick in a Chelsea shirt in his first spell at the club came with the winning penalty in the 2012 shootout and he recalled that when he spoke to the media afterwards.
"To finish (my first time at Chelsea) with a penalty and start again with a penalty was a nice symmetry," he said.
"I wanted to score that goal. I asked him (Eden Hazard) and he said it was OK. This is the spirit we have in this team."
If the match was nearly over as a contest by then it was definitely all over eight minutes later.
Terry, marauding upfield, also scored his first Champions League goal since 2012 when he crashed the ball over the line from close range after a cross from Cesc Fabregas in a counter-attack that started when Chelsea cleared a Maribor corner and featured a mazy 60-metre run from Hazard.
Chelsea did not have long to wait after the break for their fourth, when Hazard's shot was deflected over the line by Maribor left-back Mitja Viler.
The visitors wasted the chance of a consolation when Ibraimi's penalty hit Petr Cech's left-hand post.
Willian went close to a fifth when he smacked a 20-metre shot against the bar after 75 minutes, but two minutes later the fifth goal arrived when Marko Suler fouled Branislav Ivanovic to concede another penalty.
Hazard resumed his penalty-taking responsibility for this one, and scored with a sweet strike.
Maribor, thoroughly crumpled by this stage, went into damage limitation mode, but were breached again when Hazard, collecting the ball from substitute Nathan Ake, twisted this way and that for a brilliant sixth.