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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 August, 2003, 20:40 GMT 21:40 UK
Chelsea back among Euro elite
Chelsea's goalscorers Robert Huth and Glen Johnson celebrate
Huth and Johnson opened their accounts for Chelsea
Chelsea 3-0 MSK Zilina(Chelsea win 5-0 on aggregate)

Chelsea secured their place in the Champions League group stages with a comfortable victory over MSK Zilina.

It fell to two 19-year-olds to put Chelsea among Europe's elite for the first time since the 1999-2000 season.

Glen Johnson scored with a first-half header, meeting Frank Lampard's deflected free-kick to hand Chelsea the lead before substitute Robert Huth made a similar contribution after the break.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink wrapped up the result with the third of the evening and signalled his intent to new signing Hernan Crespo that he is not ready to relinquish his place in attack.

Chelsea's new tsar Roman Abramovich is intent on challenging Europe's old order and establishing the London club as the continent's premier football force.

To that end, Abramovich's latest signing Crespo was paraded around the Bridge as Chelsea flexed their muscle in the transfer market once more.

KEY INCIDENTS
32 mins: Glen Johnson scores his first goal for Chelsea
Half time: Hernan Crespo confirmed as Chelsea's latest signing for 16.5m
60 mins: Eidur Gudjohnsen strikes the post
67 mins: Robert Huth adds a second
78 mins: Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink fires in a third

The 16.8m signing of Crespo will see him re-united with former Lazio team-mate Juan Sebastian Veron, who was rested for the second leg of the qualifier.

Chelsea head coach Claudio Ranieri gave Joe Cole his full debut in midfield and the England international grabbed his chance, taking the game to Slovak side Zilina in a soporific opening period.

Content to sit deep, Zilina attempted to hit Chelsea on the break, although the Slovaks' forays proved fruitless.

Instead it fell to the hosts to take the initiative and Johnson went some way to repaying the 6m invested in him over the summer by heading his first goal for the club from Lampard's lofted free-kick on the right.

Reaching the Champions League is very important for the new Chelsea
Claudio Ranieri

Emmanuel Petit replaced Lampard after the break as Chelsea looked to extend their lead.

And the Frenchman was instrumental in Chelsea's second which came courtesy of young defender Huth moments after his introduction.

Huth, on for Marcel Desailly, had not touched the ball before he rose highest to connect with Petit's inswinging corner and send a powerful header into the Zilina goal.

Not to be upstaged, Dutchman Hasselbaink got in on the act, thumping home Chelsea's third to put their embarrassing Uefa Cup exits behind them and celebrate their return to Europe's top table.

HAVE YOUR SAY

Although Ranieri has played down the Blues' chances of actually winning the competition, he sees no reason why they should not make an impact this season.

"It is great to have reached the Champions League group stage. It is very important for the new Chelsea," he said.

"The target is to arrive like Real Madrid, Manchester United and Arsenal. But first of all we must build the foundations.

"Other teams cannot think about Chelsea now at this moment, I am sure. They have been squads for a long time.

"Maybe it would be an advantage if they did not take Chelsea seriously enough but the expectations around the world are very high now. When they play against Chelsea, there is a good motivation there."


Chelsea: Cudicini, Johnson, Desailly, Terry, Babayaro, Geremi, Cole, Lampard, Gronkjaer, Hasselbaink, Gudjohnsen. Subs: Ambrosetti, Duff, Stanic, Melchiot, Petit, Huth, Forssell.

MSK Zilina: Rzeszoto, Kosmel, Konecny, Durica, Labant, Zabavnik, Barcik, Bazik, Stas, Sninsky, Varadin. Subs: Trabalik, Strba, Klago, Cervenec, Fabus, Putik, Drahno.

Referee: Kyros Vassaras (Greece).







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