Two goals from Ramires, a Steaua own goal, and a Frank Lampard strike fired Chelsea to victory
That was, quite simply, a complete slice of urine, and consequently, it's fairly hard to draw much in the way of conclusion, beyond STEAUA WERE RUBBISH. Chelsea will appreciate the goals, though, and look closer to settled than for a while. I hope De Bruyne likes conkers and Garbage Pail Kids, or whatever it is kidz do nowadaze.
Ta for your emails and company, night-night.
90+2 min Chelsea knock the ball around, Steaua chase.
90 min Chelsea shall riff on three additional minutes of Steauan pain.
Frankly Frank, this. Azpilicueta nabs possession on halfway and sends Eto'o clear on the left. Teasing his man, he lifts a cross to Willian, on the other side of the box, level with the penalty spot. Briefly contemplating a shot, he instead controls and lays back to the edge of the box, and Lampard, arriving on cue, whips a finish in off the post like he's been doing it all his life, which he has.
88 min And there be more. "I've always thought it a pity that England, sometime in the last decade, never put out an all-first-name team," says Nick Einhorn. "For example: James; Neville (Gary), Ferdinand, Terry, Cole (Ashley); Cole (Joe), Barry, Murphy, Neville (Phil); Owen, Cole (Andrew).
87 min Surname firstnames - Oscar and Moses, says Shane Weinmann - and, of course, don't call me Schurrle, adds Todd Bennington.
85 min Ashley Cole is bored, and idly rolls the ball at Tanase, who cuts in and shoots low and skiddy, Cech turning behind. From the corner, on the left, Terry misses his header and a scramble doth ensue, Lampard brilliantly blocking Tatu's shot and Cech falling on the loose sphere.
82 min Thing is, this win might end up being worth nothing - Steaua are definitely bad to do an Otelul Galati, and lose every game. If Basle win in Bucharest in the next round of games, I'd say that's very likely, which will mean Chelsea will, most likely need to do the same when they visit Switzerland.
80 min Willian arrives, Mata leaves. To which potentially rival-defeating team might he be loaned in January?
80 min Arsenal still lead Napoli 2-0, Barcelona are one-up against Celtic, and Atletico Madrid lead 2-1 at Porto in what sounds like the game of the night.
79 min Azpilicueta replaces Oscar.
77 min Chelsea have slowed a little now - ideally, they'd like someone to indicate the way to their habitual abode, for they're fatigued and have a desire to retire.
76 min Schurrle runs at not Georgievski, is tackled.
73 min Steaua have a chance! Happen! Tanase finds space on the left, between box and touchline, hooping over a cross to the back post which Stanciu hits first time, on the half-volley - into the ground, and straight at Cech, who nonetheless saves well. But the ball arrives back at Stanciu's feet, and he jinks inside, then jinks again past Lampard, and whips a curler just over the bar.
71 min Georgievski is finally rescued, saved by Varela.
70 min Oscar, who's been good in the second half, makes more ground on the right and finds Ramires, who eschews the chance to complete a hat-trick to feed Schurrle. Stepping inside and using Georgievski as a screen - the most use he's been all night - he fades a lazy, low curler around him, but finds insufficient draw, and it falls just past the post.
68 min It's actually impossible to say that Schurrle's played well tonight, such a mess has Georgievski been.
66 min Things slow for a few moments, until Ivanovic wins a header just inside the Steaua half, on the right, that finds Mata. With Os-car on the outside, he rolls into his stride, setting up a shot that's lashed just over the top.
64 min Schurrle again, swaying out then in and past a befuddled Georgievski who dangles a body in his direction because he feels he has to. Now in position for a shot, Schurrle attempts a drives and achieves a drag, Tatarusanu saving easily.
63 min Elsewhere in this group, Schalke are 2-0 up on Basle.
61 min Cech is back on his feet.
59 min Steaua attack, and with nothing much else to do, Tanase stubs a chip over Cech that's sailing into the right-top corner, but for the tip of his middle finger. In so doing, he clatters the post with his back, and there's a brief break while he receives treatment.
58 min Almost - almost - a wondrous Chelsea goal. Oscar, who's actually not had the best of nights, found himself on the right of the box and jabbed a backheel between the defenders for Mata, who laced a low shot against the base of the near post, the rebound arriving too sharply for any of the attackers clustered in the box.
You can, no doubt, guess the germination of this goal. Ramires found Schurrle, who heard Georgievski galumphing in behind and turned him with humiliating ease, allowing the ball through his legs. Skipping clear, he cut back a pass to just outside the box, seeking Mata but finding Oscar, who rolled to Ramires, suddenly, superhumanly arrived on the other side of the pitch, and he slammed a finish beyond Tatarusanu high at the near post.
54 min Do Chelsea have more players with surnames that are first names than any other team? Cole, Mata, Terry, Mikel, Luiz.
52 min Schurrle, bored of mooching by Georgievski, cuts inside and squares to Eto'o, who jabs back left to Lampard, but with just too heavy a touch for him to control.
50 min Steaua attempt intricacy around the edge of the Chelsea box and in steams Luiz, chasing forwards and setting the ball right. Momentum then stalls, before Oscar crosses low to the centre of the box, where Lampard is arriving to sweep into the far corner - but instead, he swipes fresh air, and Steaua break, Stanciu evading Ashley Cole, who trips him, playground-style. He's booked.
48 min Steaua now have to men up, to not get the ball, but find Tatu on the right, who crosses - but Luiz deals with it well, avoiding ceding a free-kick and clearing. Chelsea then break, and Eto'o, who is seriously ganting on a goal, drags another shot that Tatarusanu collects with no alarms nor surprises.
46 min Two Steaua changes, and good old Laurentiu Reghecampf - he's kept Georgievski on. Kapitanos replaces Piovaccari and Tatu is on for Popa.
The teams are upon us. Ben Shepherd has not lemarred Ray.
Half-time email: "The most diacritical marks fielded by a British side tonight?" wonders Andy Acton-Peters. "Petr Čech, Branislav Ivanović, David Luiz, Samuel Eto'o, André Schürrle, César Azpilicueta."
Not sure about David Luiz, but that is a lot - and there's also José Mourinho.
Ray doesn't know Eto'o. He does, however, know Ashley.
Half-time entertainment: Ben Shepherd is in the studio. A hero, for this.
This has been very easy for Chelsea. They've played pretty well, but Steaua have made things not so hard, and will very likely find themselves donated a severe panelling.
We are now privileged to be enjoying one of the all-time classic mares. Cole hares in off his flank and gains the Steaua half, finding Mata inside him, who stubs a delicious ball between centre-back and left-back for Eto'o. Zoning goalwards and with Cole racing across him to further distract the defenders, he nips inside his man, opens his body and passes a low shot that's not close enough to the corner to seriously trouble Tatarusanu - but he can only parry directly into the stride of Georgievski, who runs it into the unguarded goal as if on purpose and slams himself into the netting for artistic embellishment. Played, sir.
43 min These last few minutes have been a little better for Steaua, Cech forced to flap at a couple of crosses and then Terry clearing long to avert later danger, almost setting Eto'o free in the process. But he no longer has the pace to escape defenders, and the ball ended up at the feet of Oscar, who lashed a shot over the top from just outside the box, left of centre.
40 min Oscar gives the ball away twice in ten seconds, the first a dinky square pass that came back to him and the second an attempt and finding Luiz, behind him. But the ball was too firm and ill directed, Cech forced to scurry out and slide into a clearance before Piovaccari could control.
39 min A ball sent into Piovaccari's feet is turned wide to Popa, who lays back to Georgievski. He runs the ball into touch. Maybe he'd enjoy croquet.
38 min Steaua are showing a little more urgency now, but have found it hard to get Bourceanu on the ball, and with Chelsea harrying their defenders in possession are pretty much bereft of further ideas.
36 min Arsenal are 2-0 up on Napoli. Aaron Ramsey has scored all three.
34 min Cole finds Mata, who has a look and sees Schurrle, salivating as Georgievski lumbers into sight. Immediately, he dashes past him, makes long bacon, and clips back a ball to Oscar on the edge of the box. Attempting a sweep towards the far post, he instead screws some kind of peculiar contact high and in the opposite direction.
33 min Eto's feints to shoot, feints to shoot, and shoots. It's blocked. Steaua then attempt a break, so Lampard bumps Stanciu to the ground just to the left of the centre-circle, and is rewarded with a yellow card.
30 min Filip and Tanase manage to chucklebrother into one another around the edge of the box, dead centre, Mata immediately purloining possession and nipping hard and short into Eto'o, who returned. Now a little towards the left, he dragged a cross-shot that was fielded easily enough by Tatarusanu, but the fact remains that Steaua are getting a seeing-to here.
29 min More 90s nostalgia with Matt Dony: "Jack Goodson can keep his silk shirt. Global Hypercolour T-shirt all the way for me, thanks. P A R T. Y? Because of Mata! (And that might be the horriblest pun I've ever sent to an MBM."
They were highly conducive to the allocation of greenies in the circles of nasty little boys I used to frequent.
27 min Luiz intercepts a ball headed for Piovaccari, scooting into the tackle and continuing forwards before finding Mata. Seeing Eto'o in the box, he scooped an instant ball in his direction, that demanded a desperate leg extension from Gardos.
24 min As Ivanovic finds Os-car, whose cross is cleared, Rob Hobson emails. "Interesting to hear how soporific Mourinho's antics are to the gentlemen of the press this time round. Perhaps his drama / winning stuff is like Scholes' style / sociopathic tackling... can't have one without the other."
I'm not sure - plenty seem to still enjoy them - but maybe you're right. Though in both cases I think the principal purpose is enjoyment, rather than success.
22 min Chelsea could rack up a few more here - Steaua are not looking composed when put under pressure, and if Ramires can disturb them in midfield, they won't have enough possession to avoid a hiding.
Tony Gale was right; Georgievski is nonsense. Ramires found Schurrle, and he set off upon another sally, drawing his man in and twitching outside him with an ease more easy than consummate ease. He then crossed low, for Eto'o, but the ball reared up and interfered with his radar as a tackle came in - but after a touch, he still managed to get a shot in, that went square and handily into the path of Ramires, who tapped home from a few yards.
18 min Mata loses possession, a stray square ball setting Steaua away down the right. The prospect of Popa's cross generated momentary excitement, but in the event was easily cleared by Cech and friends.
16 min A long ball is rammed towards Piovaccari, up early, so Bravejohn Terry ducks, to trip him in mid-air with his back, the effect rather like bending down behind someone and having a third person push them over you. Warning: do not do this in a gym, unless you are very sure to be ready before the push, else you will find yourself looking for pieces of teeth.
14 min What's probably happened is that Mourinho was affronted that Torres escaped a ban on a technicality, so, in defence of morality, he either ordered him to get "injured" or injured him through the power of thought and suggestion.
13 min Schurrle has started the game well, Georgievski, his marker, apparently not of the finest. Cole, advancing down the left, slides him a ball that he manoeuvres into stride before turning to cross low - but again, it's easily blocked, this time behind. The corner is nonsense.
11 min Poor Poorfernando. Poorfernando departs, and Eto'o arrives.
10 min As the players tip and tap, Jack Goodson emails. "I see that tonight's MBM has transformed into a 90s dance party. Excuse me while I grab my silk shirt," he says.
There has never been any excuse for shirts, of silk or otherwise.
8 min "He doesn't really want to be injured", insights Tony Gale as Eto'o warms up, but he returns, iron-willed trooper that he is. Meanwhile Luiz whacks a long, straight ball down the right touchline and Gardos heads behind for a corner - but Mata's delivery is typical of wasters like him, and Tatarusanu claims easily.
7 min More deliberate aimless passing from Steaua before Gardos is forced to hump into touch so that Torres might receive treatment - a broken nail, I think. That, or kneeeknack.
5 min After the flurry dies down, Steaua compile a matter-of-principle attack, Latovlevici progressing down the left before crossing high into the arms of Cech.
3 min Steaua are looking to knock the ball short and safe wherever possible, Chelsea looking to get forward quickly, and they break with Schurrle, skidding away down the left and cutting across the face of the box at speed before scrambling a reverse-ball into Mata, just a few yards from goal. Immediately, Tatarusanu is upon him, so he retains the heid and dances gently away, laying back to Schurrle, who drills a shot that's blocked away.
1 min It's Mata behind Torres, with Os-car elsewhere. Meanwhile, Schurrle schurrlies down the left and crosses low, but his effort is easily shinned clear.
1 min Chelsea get us underway. Yo DJ, pump this party.
The music is playing. Chelsea have come dressed as 1982 France away pyjamas.
"We did garbage. We have to clean what we did." Mourinho: so gnomic, he's sitting in the back garden with a fishing rod.
Agreement, with Peter Oh: "I agree with the reader's remark about the over-the-top testosteroned gorilla goal celebrations. I miss Alan Shearer's simple smile and outstretched arm. And I dislike the thumb-suckers. But at least they are not angry thumb-suckers."
Is Ray on first-name terms with all of the Chelsea players, do you think? I reckon that he is.
Of course, Steaua owner Gigi Becali knows what the score's going to be - information communicated through the window of a polis van.
Confession time from your sharing MBM: I'd like to be Glenn Hoddle's hair.
Any more for any more?
It is, I concede, tricky to see John Terrence, Frenk Lempard and pals indulging in this magnificence and joy.
Opening email. Here's Wilson Beuys: "They're a very angry team, Chelsea, aren't they. When they scored against Spurs they were all - when I say all, obviously I mean the gang of Three Sour-Faced Englishmen - snarling and punching the air and shouting things and showing all their teeth like chimpanzees in a face-off for the last available female. And I realised they weren't even having a go at the Spurs fans, they were in front of their own fans. That Rooney man seems to do the same thing. Are there any happy teams out there any more? And is it only English professional footballers that react like beered-up layabouts whose bird has been looked at once too often when they stick one in the onion-bag?"
It's a tricky one, this, and I swither. When I think of the players I've most enjoyed, or identified with, there's a definite preponderance of nutters and reprobates. But on the other hand, they're the ones I most dislike, too. Sometimes it aggravates me when I see the players enjoying themselves, sometimes it aggravates me when they're not.
Brace, brace! Oscar and Mata in the Chelsea starting line-up: can the time-space continuum cope? Mata replaces Mikel, and Schurrle comes in for Hazard, whom he replaced at the weekend. Otherwise, all in both teams is as expected.
Fotbal Club Steaua București(4-2-3-1 after the modern style): Tatarusanu; Georgievski, Szukala, Gardos, Latovlevici; Filip, Bourceanu; Popa, Stanciu, Tanase, Piovaccari. Subs: Nita, Prepelita, Cristea, Tatu, Neagu, Varela, Kapetanos
Chewlsye (4-3-2-1 according to Uefa): Cech, Ivanovic, Cole, Luiz, Ramires, Lampard, Torres, Mata, Oscar, Schurrle, Terry. Subs: Schwarzer, Mikel, Ba, Willian, Cahill, Azpilicueta, Eto'o
Preamble. "I wonder what he meant by that?" So said Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord — Talleyrand to his pals — after learning of the death of a Turkish ambassador. Or so said Klemens Wenzel Nepomuk Lothar, Fürst von Metternich-Winneburg zu Beilstein, anglicised as Clement Wenceslas Lothar von Metternich-Winneburg-Beilstein — Metternich to his pals — after learning of the death of Talleyrand.
Whichever of them it was, it's unlikely they'd have asked it of Jose Mourinho. Despite constant and deliberate attempts to achieve gnomic, he's simply incapable of anything approaching it, metaphorical heart not so much on his metaphorical sleeve as literally pulsating all over his face, vena cava in his ear and aorta in his nose. And right now, this very second, he is not happy; things are not going as he ordained. How dare they! Oi, things! Yeah, you! Sawihaht!
Oh, things. Those things who sent Lukaku out on loan, started the season preferring De Bruyne to Mata, picked a strikerless team at Old Trafford, and expected a group of touch players and improvisors to instantly morph into a remorseless and relentless killing machine - them. What jokers. What a world.
Chelsea really need a win tonight, to settle them into what is, by a long way, the dossiest of this season's Champions League groups. Schalke are in a thorough state, with just two wins from seven Bundesliga games, Basle are top of the Super League but have won only five of ten, and Steaua are the same team Chelsea beat last season, minus Vlad Chiriches.
On the other hand, Eden Hazard is injured, Fernando Torres is suddenly their great
scratching striking hope,they lost here last season, and a relaid and sodden pitch is unlikely to favour their ball-players. They oughtn't make a mess of it, but they just might.
Kick off: 7.45pm