The Champions League campaign is on a steadier footing after a thoroughly deserved away win in Romania.
Ramires scored in each half, with an own-goal sandwiched between the Brazilian’s strikes. Frank Lampard completed the scoring in the closing stages.
Jose Mourinho’s men were 2-0 up and comfortable just before half-time with the third goal scored shortly after the interval. Steaua had the occasional chance after that, but on a night when the Blues continued the bright passing and movement seen in the second period at White Hart Lane, it was always likely a fourth would come and so it did with two minutes left on the clock.
With the Chelsea Under-19 side winning by the same scoreline in the same city against their equivalents from Steaua, it has been a good visit to Eastern Europe for the west Londoners.
Jose Mourinho was true to his word at the weekend and selected Juan Mata from the start. With Eden Hazard out injured, the substitute who replaced him during the Spurs game, Andre Schurrle, kept his place, as did Fernando Torres up front.
Oscar completed the attacking quartet with Ramires remaining alongside Lampard behind them. That midfield pair and the defence were the same as in the impressive second half at White Hart Lane.
Steaua made two changes from their away defeat in the first group game. Lucian Filip played in midfield in place of Mihai Pintilii and Federico Piovaccari was preferred to Pantelis Kapetanos as the striker.
Jose Mourinho had more or less labelled this a must-win match even at this early stage of the competition, and it was easy to see why given the pressure that would build if we did not do so ahead of back-to-back matches with Bundesliga side Schalke.
It was also easy to see Chelsea winning on our return to Bucharest given the balance of the opening minutes of this game.
Almost from the off Schurrle embarked on a weaving run that resulted in Mata with the ball at his feet and the keeper to beat. But realising he didn’t have the room to work it over Tatarusanu only a couple of yards in front, the Spaniard intelligently spun and laid the ball back to Schurrle. Agonisingly the winger’s shot hit a defender with the goalie struggling to regain position.
The bright start was countered by an injury to Fernando Torres who had been struggling since an early challenge. Samuel Eto’o stripped and was ready to come on as Torres had treatment off the pitch, but our no.9 decided he could continue.
Only a couple of minutes later his time was up, as the fourth official’s number board signalled the introduction of Eto’o just 10 minutes in.
The roof had remained on the impressive National Arena during the wettest of wet days in the Romanian capital, and the pitch showed no signs of the puddles present during training 24 hours before.
Chelsea were forced to defend when Lampard didn’t collect a pass in front of our penalty area from Mata but David Luiz was able to head the eventual cross to safety.
Soon after, the white-kitted Blues went on a counter-attack. The ball was swept out to the left to Schurrle who centred to Eto’o. The scoring chance looked to be the Cameroonian’s but when he ball was nicked away from his toes by a defender, it came to Ramires who was able to bundle the ball in from a couple of yards out. The lead had taken 19 minutes to arrive.
At Tottenham, Mata had come on to play on the right side, but tonight he was more often the central playmaker with Oscar out wider, and he was justifying that by oiling Chelsea moves through some very congested spots. His lifted short pass over the defence on 25 minutes was close to giving Oscar a clear sight of the target. Mata then had shot that stuck under the keeper’s body.
Lampard was booked on 32 minutes for a shove near halfway as Steuau were sizing up a counter-attack possibility.
The Romanian league champions were finding it tough to get at the Chelsea defence. Terry and David Luiz were playing the offside well when faced with long balls and the midfield were helping keep the home side at bay.
Highlighting the hard work was Schurrle tracking a run 40 yards back down his flank before dispossessing his opponent, who had only just taken possession of the ball.
When one cross did come over from Popa into the danger zone, Cech was able to help it on its way to safety.
Schurrle’s loose touch denied him a shooting chance after Ramires had shown good vision to find the German in space, but two minutes before the interval we were able to double our lead with a helping foot from Steaua full-back Georgievski. Mata released Eto’o down the inside left channel and although the keeper saved, the defender haring back towards his own goal couldn’t help but divert the rebound in.
The 2-0 scoreline was a fair reflection on the first 45 minutes.
Ashley Cole was booked before five minutes were up for tripping Stanciu; Steaua having counter-attacked following a highly uncharacteristic air shot from Lampard in the sort of position he relishes.
The third goal came four minutes later. Schurrle’s running with and without the ball down the left had been a thorn in the home side all night and having just seen one dribble come to nothing, this time after powering past more red and blue shirts he centred to Oscar. The Brazilian had the vision to pick out Ramires’s overlapping run for a thumping finish.
The football was flowing. Mata rapped the post with Oscar again conjuring the opening but then Steaua had their best effort.
Cech backpeddled to tip a lob from Tanase over the bar but his momentum kept him falling onto the post. That hurt and treatment was needed for the big Czech, but with half an hour to go he was able to continue.
Schurrle went close before at the other end, Stanicu worked Cech and then fired over when the save came back his way.
Eto’o, still in search of his first Chelsea goal, connected sweetly with a volley from an acute angle inside the final 15 minutes but unfortunately Tatarusanu was equal to it and saved.
Azpilicueta and Willian were late additions to the action, both in midfield positions, but it was Cech who had to make the save, tipping a long-range shot round the post at full-stretch. The corner that followed resulted in a melee in our six-yard box but the clean sheet survived, taking Cech ever closer to Peter Bonetti’s club record.
The game had long been over as a contest by the time of that late rally from the Romanians and there was one more chance to show our prowess on the break. Eto’o made an advance on the left of the area and gave the ball to Willian over on the other side. The ball was laid back to Lampard who found the net with a first-time shot via the inside of the far post.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1):Cech; Ivanovic, D Luiz, Terry (c), Cole; Ramires, Lampard; Oscar (Azpilicueta 78), Mata (Willian 80), Schurrle; Torres (Eto’o).
Unused subs Schwarzer, Cahill, Mikel, Ba.
Scorers Ramires 19, 54, Georgievski o.g. 43, Lampard 88.
Booked Lampard 32.
Steaua (4-2-3-1):Tatarusanu; Georgievski (Varela 70), Szukala, Gardos, Latovlevici; Bourceanu (c), Filip; Popa, Stanciu,Tanase; Piovaccari.
Unused subs Nita, Tatu, Prepelita, Neagu, Cristea, Kapetanos.
Referee Carlos Velasco Carballo from Spain.