Chelsea made a winning start to their latest bid for Champions League glory here Tuesday as second half goals from David Luiz and Juan Mata secured a 2-0 win over Bundesliga side Bayer Levekusen.
Brazilian international Luiz fired the English Premier League giants ahead with a goal on 67 minutes, curling a low shot beyond Leverkusen keeper Bernd Leno after a neat lay-off from Fernando Torres.
Torres then set up Chelsea’s second of the night deep in injury time, accelerating clear of the Leverkusen defence before unselfishly cutting back for Mata who sidefooted home into an open goal.
“We created so many opportunities to win the game by more. It was a game for us to win,” Chelsea coach Andre Villas-Boas said afterwards.
“If there was a fair result it would have been Chelsea winning. It was just a shame it took a long time for the second to arrive.”
Leverkusen coach Robin Dutt had no complaints about his side’s defeat.
“Chelsea deserved to win the game but my team gave a very good performance,” he said. “Chelsea’s defence just didn’t make any mistakes. But the more experience my team get the better they will get.”
With one eye on Sunday’s looming domestic battle with Manchester United, Villas-Boas had taken a gamble by leaving Frank Lampard on the bench and omitting captain John Terry altogether.
Villas-Boas disagreed that he had taken a risk by leaving the two Chelsea icons out of his starting line-up.
“I don’t see things like that. I think you are trying to look at the negative when there are so many positives. We have a very competitive squad,” he said.
Until Luiz’s superb strike however it looked as if Villas-Boas’s men were in for a frustrating evening against their compact German opponents, for whom former Chelsea star Michael Ballack started in midfield.
With Chelsea’s old guard missing, the stage was set for Torres to spearhead a pacy front three featuring Daniel Sturridge and Mata on the flanks.
Torres had created headlines earlier in the week when he had appeared to blame his failure to shine at Stamford Bridge since his record £50 million move from Liverpool on a Chelsea attack which he branded “old and slow.”
Chelsea had served notice of their attacking intent within minutes of the kick-off, when the pacy Sturridge went speeding down the right flank and crossed for Torres, whose shot flew just over.
At the other end Chelsea suffered an early scare when Leverkusen captain Simon Rolfes headed home from a corner only for French referee Stephane Lannoy to disallow the effort for pushing.
Chelsea themselves had a goal disallowed only moments later. Mata ghosted down the left wing and crossed for Torres who flicked on to Raul Meireles, who steered the ball home only to be adjuged offside.
Torres’ energetic start then saw him fall foul of Lannoy, who booked the Spaniard for a clumsy tackle on Rolfes in the ninth minute.
Torres came agonisingly close to giving Chelsea the lead a minute later, surging through the visitors defence only to be denied by the leg of Leno.
It was the closest Chelsea came to scoring in the opening 45 minutes, where despite relentless pressure they were often let down by a lack of precision in the final third.
In fact Torres was outshone by the in-form Sturridge, who forced a good save from Leno on 32 minutes when he unleashed a wicked shot from 20 yards that the Leverkusen keeper batted away for a corner.
Shortly before half-time Sturridge let fly again, sending a rasping effort swerving just wide from near the edge of the area.
Chelsea continued to dominate in the second half but had goalkeeper Petr Cech to thank for a fine block on 57 minutes to deny Ballack.
On 64 minutes Sturridge saw his low shot clawed away by Leno as Chelsea went close again. Villas-Boas then replaced the young attacker with Nicolas Anelka while introducing Lampard for Meireles.
Within three minutes Chelsea had scored the decisive goal through Luiz before Mata added his late second.
Chelsea 1-0 Bayer Leverkusen (Luiz)
Chelsea 2-0 Bayer Leverkusen (Mata)