A wondrous run from David Luiz, making his first appearance under Villas-Boas, gave the Blues the lead. A late surge down the left wing by Fernando Torres found an unmarked Juan Mata, who coolly slotted home his second goal in less than three complete games with the club.
With his first big test of the season, Manchester United, looming on Sunday, Villas-Boas gambled and sat captain John Terry, vice-captain Frank Lampard and work horse Ramires. Luiz, after finally returning from injury, would take the spot of Terry, while Raul Meireles and Florent Malouda would fill in the midfield.
With a relatively fortunate group, Leverkusen figured to be Chelsea’s main contender for the top spot. The team has its fair share of stars, including former Chelsea standout Michael Ballack, who was honored for his services at Stamford Bridge before the game.
Chelsea would have the first opportunity to get on the board, but Torres would send Sturridge’s cross wide. Both teams would then have goals disallowed, with Leverkusen having a bit more of case for theirs than Chelsea.
Twenty minutes into the second half, Villas-Boas’ replacement of Meireles and Sturridge for Lampard and Anelka had instant success.
Though neither were directly involved in the play, their introduction was followed by Luiz’s surging run forward, before laying it off to Torres, who found him back at the top of the box for a brilliant bending finish.
With less than a minute to go, Torres would make his own run on the left flank. Beating the midfield with a give and go exchange with Malouda that Chelsea fans have been waiting 20 plus games for, he would find Mata open on the penalty spot. The No. 10, who had missed a chance from there earlier, did not this time and put the game away.
Villas-Boas’ gamble paid off and the early win puts them on top of the group. At times the team struggled and turned over the ball far too often. But with United just around the corner, a conservative approach and win is all that was expected.