Nicolas Anelka has always been a controversial figure, and his standing in France is less than stellar after his behaviour during the World Cup. At Stamford Bridge on Tuesday, though, he was on target as Chelsea beat Marseille 2-0, and Jason Burt, in the Daily Telegraph, says he used his silky skills to answer the boo boys.
“I have never seen Anelka afraid or scared or nervous,” said Carlo Ancelotti. “He is always quiet. He is always calm. He has a good character.”
It is not an opinion universally held. Or, at least, not held in France of the now ex-international following his exit from the World Cup in disgrace.
On the eve of this encounter Ancelotti was asked if Anelka would be intimidated by playing in a match beamed live in his home country and against his nation’s champions. Ancelotti laughed.
On 28 minutes there was the test of whether Anelka was at all fazed by his French exile. Chelsea were awarded a penalty. Would he try and convert it with the confident nonchalance he had shown in taking one-step and rolling the ball in the net against Newcastle United last week? After all this was the Champions League, not the Carling Cup.
No matter. Anelka again took a ridiculously short run-up and, this time, sent the ball into the net before, cheekily, deliberately, heading towards the Marseille supporters and then checking himself, and turning the other way to celebrate with the home fans. He was making his point. “I don’t have to say to Anelka how to shoot his penalties,” Ancelotti said when asked if the approach brought any palpitations. “He is able to take them and has scored twice. I’m happy.”
The Marseille ultras had whistled Anelka’s every touch to that moment – the decibels a notch or two louder than they were for another Frenchman, another World Cup flop, Florent Malouda.