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Demba Ba ensured Chelsea finished top of Champions League Group E as the Senegal striker clinched a 1-0 win over Steaua Bucharest on Wednesday.

Jose Mourinho's side had already qualified for the last 16 of Europe's elite club competition, but they needed a victory in their final group fixture at Stamford Bridge to guarantee first place.

Ba's first half goal was enough to fulfil that ambition and, while Chelsea were some way from their best, this fairly forgettable encounter could yet prove a significant stepping stone if they go on to have a successful European campaign.

Mourinho claimed on Monday that Chelsea were unlikely to win the Champions League this season because the squad is still a work in progress in the first season of his second spell at the Bridge. But that sounded suspiciously like kidology from the Chelsea boss in a bid to ease the pressure on his players, who should benefit from a significantly easier draw in the last 16 now they have finished top of their group.

After Saturday's surprise defeat at Stoke, Mourinho opted to rest Petr Cech as one of seven changes to the team beaten by Stoke, with Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer finally making his Champions League debut, while England left-back Ashley Cole returned after a spell on the sidelines.

Schwarzer became the oldest Champions League debutant at 41 years and 66 days, and also the second oldest player ever in the Champions League.

Mourinho was unhappy with his strikers' lack of goals following the Stoke loss, but his criticism sparked an immediate response, albeit against one of the weaker defences Chelsea will face this season.

Oscar came close to opening with barely five minutes played when he ghosted through the Steaua defence and flashed a shot just wide from the edge of the penalty area.

It took Chelsea just 11 minutes to break down Steaua's feeble resistance. Oscar took advantage of Steaua's sloppy marking and rose to head Willian's corner towards the far post, where Ba got the final touch ahead of Bucharest's Daniel Georgievski, bundling the ball into the net from virtually on the line for just his third goal of the season. Yet Mourinho had been vexed by Chelsea's careless defending after they conceded six goals in two matches against Sunderland and Stoke last week. He was given more reason for concern when Chelsea's defence parted with alarming ease moments after his side took the lead.

Gabriel Iancu surged clear of John Terry and looked odds on to score, only to drag his shot wide with just Schwarzer to beat.

Branislav Ivanovic almost doubled Chelsea's lead midway through the first half, but the Serb's powerful header from Eden Hazard's cross was tipped over by Ciprian Tatarusanu.

Ba should have delivered the knockout blow early in the second half, but he somehow managed to lift his close-range effort well over the bar from Willian's cross.

Steaua's total lack of goal threat ensured Chelsea rarely needed to overly exert themselves in a moribund second period.

Substitute Andre Schurrle injected some life into the closing stages when he jinked into the penalty area and tested Tatarusanu with a low strike.

Tatarusanu could only push the ball back into the six-yard box, but Hazard was unable to capitalise on the rebound as the Belgian headed over.

Ba had a strike ruled out by a debatable offside call in the closing moments, but it was already mission accomplished for Chelsea.


Chelsea will be without injured Belgium playmaker Eden Hazard when they play Steaua Bucharest in the Champions League Group E clash on Tuesday, the club has announced. Also not making the trip will be Hazard's compatriot Kevin de Bruyne, who failed to impress manager José Mourinho in the Capital One Cup match at Swindon and was not included in a 20-man squad which travelled to the Romanian capital.

Striker Fernando Torres was included despite facing a domestic ban following his dismissal and altercation with Jan Vertonghen in Saturday's draw at Tottenham.

It is a match Mourinho's side need to win to get their campaign back on track following their loss to Basle of Switzerland in the first round of matches. Also absent from the squad was Marco van Ginkel, who is out for six months following knee surgery, while Michael Essien was not listed in the squad earlier when it was submitted.

Chelsea lost 1-0 at the National Arena earlier this year in the last 16 of the Europa League before overcoming Steaua at home and going on to win the competition.


There is another new face on his way to Tottenham Hotspur, with the club having agreed terms with Romanian side Steaua Bucharest to buy Vlad Chiriches.  The Romanian international centre back looks set to make the move to north London after the two sides agreed terms for the 23-year-old.

It looks like Chiriches will break the Romanian club's record, with Mihai Stoica, the club's general manager, advising that the transfer fee had been set at $12.3 million.

Bucharest coach Laurentiu Reghecampf spoke of the move, saying:  "The clubs have agreed on the transfer and I am happy for him."

Chiriches began his youth career at LPS Bacau before moving to Ardealul Cluj, were he played with fellow future Romanian internationals Alexandru Maxim and Mihai Rafut.  In 2007 he made the move to Benfica, still as a youth player and he following year he made the jump to senior football when returning to Romania, joining International Curtea de Arges in the domestic league.  Interestingly the club itself had an incredibly short existence.  Only founded in 2000, the club dissolved in 2011.

His time at the Stadionul Municipal was a success though after his year in Portugal.  In 2009 he helped the Arges County side to promotion to the top flight. The solidity of his performances for the club, which saw him make 41 appearances and score one goal, eventually earned him a move to fellow Romanian side Pandurii Targu Jiu in 2010.

His time at the Horj county side was another fruitful sojourn which again saw him a solid presence in the side, playing 39 times in the one season.  His performances were eye-catching enough to secure another move, this time to Steaua Bucharest.  The move saw him again a regular, making 42 appearances for the side.  He also gained some valuable European experience.  Chiriches scored in the group stage of the Europa League and Bucharest qualified for the last 16 game against Chelsea, however it was the London side that won out.

The 23-year-old has also become a regular fixture in Victor Piturca's Romanian national side.  He made his debut against Luxembourg in September 2011 in a Euro 2012 qualifier.  He has gone on to play 19 times for his country.

Chiriches will add competition to the current centre backs at Spurs, as Andre Villas -Boas continues his spending spree as the club try to prepare itself for the likely move of Gareth Bale to Real Madrid.  Villas-Boas will be disappointed with how Chelsea have secured the signature of Anzhi player Willian from under their noses, with the Brazilian having already completed a medical with the north London side.  However there will be consolation in the signature of a promising and solid player in Chiriches.


Tottenham Hotspur have agreed terms with Steaua Bucharest to buy defender Vlad Chiriches, the Romanian side's coach, Laurentiu Reghecampf said on Sunday.

"The clubs have agreed on the transfer and I am happy for him," Reghecampf told at a news conference.

Steaua general manager Mihai Stoica said that the transfer fee had been set at 9.5 million euros ($12.7 million), which would be a record for the 1986 European champions.

The 23-year-old Chiriches joined Steaua in January 2012. He has been capped 19 times for Romania.

Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas has already spent over 90 million euros in the transfer market ahead of the September 2 deadline, bringing in notably Brazilian Paulinho from Corinthians and Spanish striker Roberto Soldado from Valencia.

The London club is on the point of selling star player Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for what is expected to be a world record transfer fee of $132 Million dollars.

Having released William Gallas at the end of last season and then sold Steven Caulker to Cardiff City, Spurs currently have only three senior center-backs on their books in Michael Dawson, Jan Vertonghen and Younes Kaboul.

Vertonghen was recently sidelined by an ankle problem, while Kaboul has only just returned to fitness after a year out of action due to knee and thigh injuries."


Former European champions PSV Eindhoven and Steaua Bucharest put their ambitions for the continental campaign on the line in midweek in the third and penultimate round of Champions League qualifying.

The Dutch giants, who won their solitary European Cup back in 1988 when they defeated Benfica on penalites, host Belgian outsiders Zulte Waregem in their League Route first leg tie on Tuesday before the second leg matches scheduled for August 6 and 7.

Steaua Bucharest, who became the first Eastern European team to lift the famous Cup in 1986, open their bid for a repeat on the road at Georgian side Dinamo Tbilisi as part of the 10-fixture Champions Route.

The winners of the five fixtures from the League Route will go into the hat for the final round of qualifying along with Arsenal, AC Milan and Schalke, Real Sociedad and Pacos de Ferreira.

Elsewhere in the League Route, former semi-finalists Lyon host Swiss hopefuls Grasshoppers, who last reached the group stages in 1997.

Turkish club Fenerbahce travel to FC Salzburg with a potential ban hanging over them for their involvement in a domestic match-fixing scandal.

Danish club Nordsjaelland, who reached the group stages last season for the first time, stand in the way of Russian heavyweights Zenit Saint-Petersburg, who enjoyed their finest moment in Europe when they won the 2008 UEFA Cup.

PAOK of Greece host Metalist Kharkiv of Ukraine in the remaining match of the pool.

Other matches in the Champions Route include FC Basel who will try to build on their run to last season's Europa League semi-finals with a tricky tie against Maccaibi Tel Aviv of Israel.

Scottish champions Celtic host Sweden's Elfsborg in Glasgow on Wednesday while Shakter Karagandy, who are trying to become the first team from Kazakhstan to reach the group stages, tackle Skenderbeu of Albania.

Austria Vienna are at home to Hafnarfjordur of Iceland, Estonian side Nomme Kalju await Viktoria Plzen of the Czech Republic, while Croatian club Dinamo Zagreb take on Moldovan underdogs Sheriff.