Blues cruise to easy Ibrox win

Light Blues striker Nikica Jelavic headed the Scottish champions

into the lead after six minutes after being set up by Steven

Naismith. However, Chelsea soon asserted themselves and Sturridge,

who had spent the second half of last season on loan to Bolton,

struck twice to give the classy Londoners an interval lead which

they never looked like surrendering. Stamford Bridge substitute

Florent Malouda, who had replaced Sturridge on the hour mark,

headed in the third in the 72nd minute to emphasise the gap in

class between the two sides. The scoreline could have been worse

for the home side had substitute goalkeeper Neil Alexander, on for

Allan McGregor at the interval, not saved Frank Lampard’s penalty

two minutes later. The Premier League club will be pleased enough

with this game as a warm-up for their Premier League campaign,

which begins next week against Stoke. Rangers, however, return to

SPL duty against Inverness next week with plenty to think about.

Ally McCoist has had a difficult start to his career as Rangers

boss and the lack of strength in his squad was highlighted when the

team sheets came out. Back in the Ibrox rearguard was Kyle Bartley,

who returned for another loan spell from Arsenal earlier in the

week. Jordan McMillan and Kyle Hutton were handed starts with the

Light Blues’ bench packed with more youngsters. Chelsea, on the

other hand, had familiar star names such as Fernando Torres, John

Terry, Salomon Kalou and Lampard in their starting line-up. Their

bench groaned with quality, including Malouda, Didier Drogba,

Nicolas Anelka and Yossi Benayoun. With former Rangers boss Walter

Smith watching from the stand, the visitors took early control but

it was the home side who drew first blood following a swift break

from midfield by captain Steven Davis. The Northern Ireland player

played in the supporting Naismith on the right and when his cross

arrived at the back post the unmarked Jelavic headed past the

sprawling Petr Cech. Chelsea stepped up the pace in response and in

the 22nd minute they were level. Torres worked his way in to the

Ibrox box and the Rangers defence was all at sea when his cross

found its way to the other side of the area where Sturridge blasted

high past McGregor from 10 yards. Moments later Torres tried a

drive from distance which the Rangers keeper gathered at the second

attempt but the second Chelsea goal was in the offing. Just before

the half-hour mark Sturridge robbed the hapless Kirk Broadfoot

outside the Rangers box and sped in to the area before thrashing

his close-range shot past McGregor at the near post. In the 33rd

minute the Scotland keeper made a fine save from Kalou’s shot,

after the Chelsea attacker had been all too easily set up by Torres

at the edge of the box. There was a blow for the visitors two

minutes before the break when midfielder John Obi Mikel limped off

injured to be replaced by Josh McEachran. Rangers made four changes

at the break with McGregor, Jelavic, Bartley and Maurice Edu

staying inside and Alexander, Ross Perry, John Fleck and David

Healy coming on. For Chelsea, Drogba replaced Torres and Jose

Bosingwa came on Paulo Ferriage and there were, as expected, many

more changes as the second half progressed which disrupted any

discernible pattern of play. In the 57th minute Rangers midfielder

Juan Manuel Ortiz slashed a shot from 12 yards wide of the target

but the Londoners remained in control and Drogba came close with a

drive in the 66th minute which just evaded the far post. However,

the next goal arrived soon enough when Drogba flicked the ball on

to Malouda who headed past Alexander from close range. Two minutes

later Chelsea were awarded a penalty when Ortiz clumsily tripped

Drogba in the box but Alexander guessed right and dived to his

right to save Lampard’s spot-kick. The Ibrox number two made

further saves from Anelka – another Chelsea substitute – and

Drogba, to show McCoist that the goalkeeping department is perhaps

the strongest part of his squad as he looks forward to what is sure

to be a testing season ahead.