Steaua gave Chelsea a fright, but Hazard and Mata in particular proved to be too good for game but limited opponents
Football is weird. Suddenly, and almost from nowhere, Chelsea have momentum. Only a few days ago, they could have been four goals down at half-time, somehow weren't, and now they're looking forward to a Uefa Cup quarter-final, an FA Cup replay, and a fairly friendly league run-in. Oddly enough, when you play three wonderful players in combination, wonderful things can happen, and it's that combination of Mata, Oscar and Hazard - along with the return of Mikel, who allows them to roam more freely - that's responsible.
Anyway, I'm off - thanks for your email and company. Bye.
90+3 min Torres pursues a pass into the right corner, running around and through three men and then along the by-line, driving a cross that Benayoun backflicks just wide.
90+3 min Benayoun comes on for Hazard, who, after a slow period mid-season, is firing again. Marking him cannot be the remotest fun, given the combination of pace, strength, trickery and desperation to humiliate.
90+1 min Luiz finds himself defending long free-kick towards Szukala, taking a buffet off the attacker and then a knee in the head from his keeper - but he's ok. There'll be three added minutes, we're belatedly informed.
90 min Moses replaces Mata.
89 min What's greedier than a glutton? A Bernard Manning? Because Fernando Torres is a Bernard Manning for punishment. But he keeps at it, cutting in from the left and finding Mikel, behind him and to his right, who shoots, but wide.
Oh, Fernando! He clumps a powerful effort to Tatarasunu's left, he dives right, and the ball clatters the bar.
Hazard teases Borceanu, walking him down, feinting inside and out, daring him to trip him - and him can't help himself.
85 min I think - I think - that Chelsea are singing Eden Hazard's name to No Limit. Terrace wit, eh? The last few minutes have been scrappy, which will suit Steaua - they'll do best to lump balls in, because as long as it 's a game of football, there's only one winner.
84 min Sobrinho - so called because he cried a lot as a baby - comes on up front, with Rapa taking a blow.
83 min Rupa pokes a ball into Rucescu, who spins and attempts a shot which is blocked. I'd not quite call it a warning - more a gentle reminder - not to get careless.
82 min A moment of calm.
80 min Popa accepts a pass wide on the right and nicks it away from Cole, who charges anyway and fells him with a leg-sweep which earns a yellow card.
79 min Torres, again in space, this time on the right of the box, drills a shot just wide of the near post, and this is really excellent from them - the last fifteen minutes have been vehicles headed in a solitary direction.
77 min Now in a new shirt and clutching tissue, Tores has been sent to change by the referee, while Chelsea take a corner from the left. It's charged down but Steaua can't clear, Tanase robbed by Oscar who zooms past him and touches past another man, running round the other side and screwing a left-footer shot just wide of the post from a narrow angle.
75 min While lying on the floor bemoaning lack of penalty, Latovlevici shinned him directly in the phizog, apparently by mistake.
74 min Fernando's busy day! He's now achieved a nosebleed, as well you might.
72 min Penalty appeal for Chelsea, Torres again on the right hand side of the box by the byline, ducking inside the sliding Chiriches before falling down on purpose. The referee turns down the appeal, which looks fine.
This is really well-taken piece of work. Taking possession in the middle of the box on his left foot, he pauses, then drags the ball outside Chipciu, quickening his stride, then drags a shot back through his legs and across Tatarusanu, into the bottom-right corner.
71 min It's been a while since Steaua contrived any meaningful possession
69 min Hazard has pretty much every attribute you might want in a footballer, and is going to be an absurdly good player. Turning, he explodes away from Chiriches, lagging after him for appearances only - but is crowded out before he can cross. Mikel is then booked for a foul, on Rapa I think.
68 min Torres steps away from Chiriches along the right touchline, and with bodies sallied in the box, lumps his cross over all of them.
65 min Popa runs by a sliding Ashley Cole, forcing Luiz to come across, and he accidentally slams his hip into his head. Chelsea play on until the referee insists they stop, at which point they stop and he receives treatment.
64 min Nick Denny with an explanation: "Maybe I should have initialed my name... It's Nick Denny, not Nick Henry! :)"
Another foul, Pintilli throwing Hazard to the floor - we're going to enjoy some jazzers during what's left of this game, I'm sure. From the free-kick, forty yards out and dead centre, Luiz boots it straight at the the keeper.
61 min Steaua aren't backing down here, and flood forward, Chipciu in space in the inside-right position. He suddenly ducks back inside, completely fooling Ashley Cole, and rams a shot at goal that Cech fumble-beats away.
60 min Chelsea win another free-kick, a little further out, and it's cleared, but comes straight back. Tatarusanu punches away, and Hazard slams a volley straight back at him - and Mikel, standing directly in front of him - is given offisde, but wasn't.
This is a perfect free-kick from Mata, which is plenty more than can be said of the de-fence. He curls one towards the penalty spot, where no one is, until suddenly Terry is, racing at the ball and awat from his marker to thud home at the near post.
58 min A proper garden foul from Rupa, taken on the outside by Hazard so immediately sliding in with a proficient trip to earn another booking.
56 min As Chelsea win a throw on the right deep inside the Steaua half, Nick Henry emails in: "I don't mind names being initials, what grinds my gears is "Best Regards" being reduced to BR. If they are your best regards, at least take the damn time to write the words."
I wonder if a single set of best regards have ever actually been meant. Unless you're emotionally stunted, anyone to whom you sign off in that way isn't someone to whom you pass your best regards.
54 min Steaua supporters are going for this, as David Luiz shoulders someone into the hoardings. He then gives the ball away moments later, Tanase on the left finding Chipciu, who lays the ball back for Borceanu - who, it turns out, it better at kicking knees and shins, lashing a piece of nonsense miles wide.
51 min The numbers on the back of Chelsea's shirts look like they've been drawn on with Magic Marker. Chelsea are playing slowly from the back, searching for the rhythm that they apparently had prior to the Steaua goal. Eventually, they find Mata on the left, but he and Cole confuse who's running where and doing what, and the attack breaks down. Borceanu inepts into the back of Mata to make sure, which one for the seen 'em given department.
50 min Andrew Laws is an intellectual: "Sure your dear old Ma might be only a blink away, but you’d only be a blink away from the Azores, and good luck to her finding you there. RE: signatures; a machine does it for me, hence:
Andrew Laws, MSc.
Associate Health Economist"
It's just following orders, yer honour.
49 min A cross from the right tempts Terry into a Gallas, but he's able to see his miscue behind, for a corner that comes to nothing. Chelsea break, through Mata, and Borceanu, espying his friends to left and right, flings himself into a foul, earning a yellow card.
47 min As not much comes to pass on the pitch, an email: "Clearly it's a very subtle form of pretension, like me sitting here at work in a suit and tie while (whilst? don't speak the Queen's English here in Texas) our dress code only states that slacks and a collared shirt are required.
There's nothing more pretentious than self-knowledge.
47 min "Fernando Torres: maybe this is his night". That would certainly trump anything Inter-Spurs produced.
46 min Chelsea kick off.
Code of conduct: where does the populace stand on signing emails with initials? Or even signing them at all, given that the name is apparent in any event, but lets begin with initials: why?
Half-time entertainment: a banter update courtesy of Andi Thomas, and with accompanying apology.
Would it be worth teleporting, for the ease of existence? Or is your parents, wife, and anyone at all in the world being only a thought away worse than public transport?
Evening all! I've just nipped back from Milan, and here we are. Ah, the magic of teleporting.
45 min And that's the last action of the half – Chelsea have it all to do. Steaua will be more than happy to hit Chelsea on the counter, as they did to earn the corner which led to the goal. Popa in particular has worrying pace, and has got the better of Cole throughout the half
44 min That really is abysmal defending and Chelsea will be kicking themselves after dominating the latter stages of that half
Out of blue, Steaua earn a corner which dips into the near post. Cech makes a good save but fails to clear, with Chiriches stabbing the ball into the roof of the net
36 min Hazard and Mata are starting wield their talent a bit more dangerously now, and with Steaua dropping their line to the edge of the box, there's a lot more space in front. Again, Mata plays a one-two, this time with Hazard, and fizzes a shot straight at Tatarusanu. Steaua have to hold on until half-time and re-group, they've offered nothing in the last fifteen minutes
34 min Excellent counter-attacking owing much to the energy of Ramires to get up with the play. Mata's 18th goal of the season is certainly going to change the way that Steaua play
33 min Chelsea take the lead, Mata plays a neat one to with Ramires on the edge of the box and squeezes a shot with his weaker right foot just inside the near bottom corner
28 min Torres is dropping deeper and deeper to find himself some space, but if anything he's just getting in the way.
A reminder that if Chelsea do need to change their attacking options later on, Demba Ba will not be one of them - he's cup-tied, after his European involvement with Newcastle earlier this season.
24 min The Hazard-Oscar-Mata axis has been suffocated of any room thus far, and you have to say Steaua look very solid.
22 min Corner is cleared as Mikel shoots again, this time over the top, before trotting back to the safety of the centre circle. Just to remind you, the Nigerian hasn't scored in six years ...
21 min Chelsea break down the right and some quick feet from Hazard makes space for Mikel, who shoots from the end of the box. A good save follows which squirts behind for a corner
18 min The game is being played wholly in Chelsea's half, and Steaua have another corner, which is cleared before Bourceanu unleashes a long range strike to sting Cech's palms
15 min: Steaua's fans are deafening, it almost feels like they're at home. Steaua's dominance in the last five minutes has prompted the Chelsea faithful to respond with 'There's only one Di Matteo' etc, etc.
6 min Cagey opening exchanges, as both teams feel each other out. The Steaua fans are in fine voice, booing each Chelsea touch, of which there are surprisingly few
11 min: Mistake from Terry allows Rusescu in behind for a one-on-one with Cech, who saves well away to his left. The Romanians are certainly not parking the bus here, but you feel that if they do get a crucial away goal, that's exactly what their game plan might be
Steaua: Tatarusanu; Latovlevici, Chiriches, Szukala, Rapa; Pintilii, Chipciu; Bourceanu, Tanase, Popa; Rusescu
The week of comebacks continues; this time Inter's comeback at the San Siro against Tottenham has hindered Daniel Harris making this for kick-off. He'll be over as soon as extra time is finished.
Chelsea have fielded a strong team to launch a comeback of their own:
Chelsea: Cech; Azpilicueta, Luiz, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Mikel; Hazard, Mata, Oscar; Torres
We're underway at Stamford Bridge
Preamble People, eh, what are they only like? Don't believe me? Just have a look around you - or contemplate everyone you've ever known, to discover not a single one who's not precisely, but specifically, only like. So really, it's a bit funny getting all het-up about Rafael Benitez, Roman Abramovich and Chelsea fans, because they're just people being only like, and you can find examples of the same, and worse, wherever you look.
Ok, I tried. What a shoddy mess. What an unflinching episode of tongue-furring awfulness. What a tragicomic compound of jokers and clowns. And all of that.
And yet, despite it all, Chelsea have some brilliant, beautiful players, brilliant, beautiful players who will become more brilliant and more beautiful. They'll be in next season's Champions League. They're still in the FA Cup. They're still in an eminently winnable Uefa Cup. While other clubs tip and tap around through a collection of tedious time-fillers, they have meaningful game of wonderful football after meaningful game of wonderful football. In two months, Benitez will be gone. And yet, they're furious. People, eh, what are they only like?