Ba’s goal sends Chelsea through as group winners

Demba Ba scored a rare goal as Chelsea advanced in the Champions

League as group winners with a 1-0 victory over Steaua Bucharest on

Wednesday.

On a night when the Romanian visitors offered little threat, Ba

turned the ball into the net from close range after 11 minutes at

Stamford Bridge.

It was just the third goal the Senegal striker had scored in 12

appearances this season, and he missed another chance at the start

of the second half when he struck over from six yards (meters).

”It was not a fantastic performance, but it was a comfortable

performance,” Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said. ”It was

enough.”

Chelsea had wrapped up qualification last month despite losing

at Basel, which also won the Group E opener against the London club

in September but still finished third.

”We are still improving and can get better for sure,” Chelsea

captain John Terry said. ”It was important for us to top the group

tonight. Some tough teams have topped the groups.”

By securing top spot ahead of Schalke, Chelsea, which won the

Europa League last season, will play one of the group runners-up in

the round of 16.

With Chelsea unable to face Schalke or an English rival, AC

Milan, Bayer Leverkusen, Olympiakos, Zenit St. Petersburg and

Galatasaray are the potential opponents in Monday’s draw.

However tough it could be facing Galatasaray, Mourinho wants

former Chelsea striker Didier Drogba to get the chance to return to

west London with the Turkish champions.

”Galatasaray is very difficult but I would like Didier to come

back here and feel what I felt (returning),” Mourinho said.

Chelsea’s defense proved to be sturdier in Europe again on

Wednesday, in contrast to its domestic showing.

This was Chelsea’s fourth clean sheet in six Group E matches,

with the only goals conceded to Basel.

In the Premier League, though, the Blues have conceded 17 goals

already, two more than in the whole of Jose Mourinho’s first season

in charge – 2004-05 – when they won the 2004-05 title.

Chelsea’s misfiring strikers have been as much of a concern for

Mourinho, and Ba’s effort against Steaua was initially given as an

own goal.

Oscar headed the ball across goal and it appeared that Daniel

Georgievski flicked the ball into the net, but it was later ruled

that Ba did get the final touch.

As rare as Ba finding the net was Mark Schwarzer appearing in

the Chelsea goal, with the Australian making his Champions League

debut at 41 in his first season with the club.

Not that Schwarzer could prove himself against a side that

offered little attacking threat.

Just after Ba’s opener, Gabriel Iancu sent the ball wide for the

visitors and a cross from Georgievski was easily collected by

Schwarzer.

A second goal proved elusive for Chelsea.

Branislav Ivanovic header from Eden Hazard’s cross was turned

over by Ciprian Tatarusanu.

The goalkeeper intervened to prevent Ba scoring again as he

attempted an overhead kick after controlling the ball with his

chest.

”We don’t have enough patience sometimes to pass the ball and

wait for spaces,” said Mourinho, who has won the Champions League

with Porto and Inter Milan.

At start of second half, Ba’s final touch let him down when he

blazed over from six yards after getting on the end of William’s

cross.

And, after Hazard headed over, Ba found the net again in the

closing minutes only for the effort to be ruled out for

offside.

”At the end of the game I was really tired,” Ba said. ”I need

to work on my fitness.”

Chelsea is back in the round of 16 after being knocked out at

the group stage last season under Rafa Benitez.

”We had one target – not to win the Europa league again,”

Mourinho said. ”And that target is done.”