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Saturday 18 August 2018

'Key' striker Anelka throws off the shackles

Nicolas Anelka fired two first-half goals to put Chelsea on the way to a comfortable 4-1 victory over MSK Zilina and then revealed the meaning of his 'handcuff' goal celebration. Anelka set up Michael Essien's 13th-minute opener before scoring twice himself after 24 and 28 minutes as Chelsea cruised to victory in Slovakia.

Anelka set up Michael Essien's 13th-minute opener before scoring twice himself after 24 and 28 minutes as Chelsea cruised to victory in Slovakia.

Daniel Sturridge scored his first Champions League goal three minutes after the interval before Zilina's Tomas Oravec netted a consolation.

Anelka, banned by the French Football Federation for 18 games because of his part in the World Cup mutiny, was hailed as the "key" to Chelsea's victory by coach Carlo Ancelotti.

The 31-year-old has insisted he will never play for his country again but admitted his gesture was aimed at the French authorities and he knows other France players will understand.

"It was just something for the French Federation about what happened at the World Cup," said Anelka.

"What happened is in the past, now I'm 100 per cent focused for Chelsea."

Anelka's movement in attack in the absence of the suspended Didier Drogba was pivotal. "The key was Anelka, he played a fantastic game," said Ancelotti. "He created space, he had opportunities, he was the key for this game."

Although Oravec's goal was the result of Petr Cech failing to catch a cross, Ancelotti was happy with the defensive performance.

"Every game in the Champions League is hard to play," added Ancelotti. "We started very well in the first half, we played fantastic football, the second half was different.

"Zilina put more pressure on our defence. The back four did a good match. When you are 3-0 up it's normal to have more difficulty."

Goalscorer Sturridge was delighted, saying: "I've been dreaming of that since I was a young boy.

"I'm delighted to get off the mark in the Champions League and hopefully there's many more to come.

Zilina coach Pavel Hapel was surprised by the scoreline.

"I am not disappointed with the game," said Hapel. "We played well and attacked Chelsea. We managed to score so it was okay.

"We didn't show the same productivity in front of goal as Chelsea did."

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