Cheslea beats Leverkusen 2-0 in Chmapions League

Chelsea kicked off its quest for an elusive Champions League

title with a 2-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen courtesy of

second-half goals by Brazil defender David Luiz and Spain winger

Juan Mata on Tuesday.

Luiz produced the kind of finish that had proved beyond his

team’s misfiring strikers in a hard-fought Group E opener by

running onto Fernando Torres’ lay-off and bending a sublime strike

into the bottom corner in the 67th minute.

Torres was also the provider for Mata’s goal with seconds

remaining, breaking free down the left and unselfishly setting up

his international teammate for a easy tap-in when he could easily

have gone for goal himself to break his drought this season.

Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas chose to rest captain John

Terry and midfielder Frank Lampard – two of Chelsea’s stalwarts for

the past decade – with Sunday’s Premier League match against leader

Manchester United in mind, and that decision almost backfired

despite the hosts dominating for large parts.

Indeed, Leverkusen will look back on missed chances by Michael

Ballack, the former Chelsea midfielder, and Andre Schurrle when the

score was 0-0 as turning points, although Villas-Boas felt it was

the right result in the end.

”How many chances did we have?” said Villas-Boas, who is under

pressure to deliver a first Champions League title to satisfy the

demands of billionaire Russian owner Roman Abramovich.

”We have to be fair and say Leverkusen went one on one with our

goalkeeper before we scored but we had numerous chances throughout

the game. We made a very good collective effort throughout and we

deserved to win.”

Fresh off leading Porto to the Europa League title last season,

Villas-Boas made the step up to the Champions League for the first

time, with one of his remits undoubtedly to end the club’s barren

run in Europe’s elite competition after a host of near misses.

Chelsea has reached the semifinals of the competition in five of

the last six years, losing to United on penalties in the 2008

final. And considering Abramovich’s obsession with the Champions

League, it was a brave call to go without Lampard and Terry for a

match against one of the main rivals in the group.

”I think it was a fair decision considering the amount of

talent we have in our squad. It would be a mistake for me not to

try to keep everybody motivated and exploit the talent of

everybody,” Villas-Boas said. ”I don’t see any braveness in

it.”

Leverkusen – the Champions League runner-up in 2002 – was denied

a goal after less than three minutes when Simon Rolfes’ close-range

header was ruled out for an earlier push by Omer Toprak but was

otherwise on the back foot in the first half.

Even taking into account the Schurrle and Ballack chances which

were well saved by Petr Cech, Chelsea’s captain for the night,

Leverkusen was a clear second best.

”I must say Chelsea deserved to win but we gave a good

performance,” said Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt. ”We showed we can

cause a team like Chelsea problems.”

Raul Meireles, the replacement for Lampard, stood out in

midfield and had a goal disallowed for offside less than a minute

after Rolfes’ ruled-out effort.

Torres toiled up front on his recall to the team after being

dropped against Sunderland on Saturday, creating a couple of

half-chances for himself in the first half but again looking bereft

of confidence with just one goal to his name since club-record 50

million pound (then $81 million) move from Liverpool in

January.

He did, though, create both of his team’s goals.

”I was happy with his effort for the team,” Villas-Boas

said.

The home crowd had grown increasingly frustrated by the time

Luiz, marauding forward as Brazilian defenders often do, ran onto

Torres’ pass and finally beat Bernd Leno, the 19-year-old

goalkeeper who performed stoically.

Strengthened by the introduction of Lampard and Nicolas Anelka

from the bench and with a previously flat atmosphere suddenly

energized, Chelsea asserted its authority and Mata, collecting an

Anelka cut-back, saw his fierce shot tipped over by Leno.

The Spain international claimed his goal, however, with seconds

remaining in an ultimately fruitful night for Chelsea.