Lost amid the tub-thumping rallying cry delivered by John Terry on the eve of this contest had been Carlo Ancelotti's reminder that Chelsea had "not died". This first-leg saunter in Denmark was nothing more than confirmation that the Champions League may yet breathe new life into the club's season. The Londoners have their respite.

They will not draw too many conclusions from a contest that appeared a mismatch once a lead had been established. But, where confidence had been so brittle after a sequence that had yielded only five wins in 16 and seen them jettisoned from the FA Cup and playing catch-up in the Premier League, hindsight would now suggest that a meeting with FC Copenhagen, who had been in competitive hibernation for more than two months, was a godsend.

The evening could hardly have gone better. While TottenhamHotspur were sinking at Blackpool back home, leaving Chelsea two points adrift of their rivals in the coveted fourth place with a game in hand, progress was being smoothed towards a quarter-final berth in Europe. Just as significantly, Ancelotti employed a system in which Fernando Torres and his team-mates seemed comfortable. Nicolas Anelka ended the evening as the Champions League's joint leading scorer for the campaign to date, level with Internazionale's Samuel Eto'o on seven, but Torres's rewards will also be forthcoming with performances such as this.

After Christmas trees and diamonds, this was more of a conventional 4-4-2 with Didier Drogba, absent from the pre-match warm-up as he underwent a rubdown in the warmth of the changing rooms, required for only the last 17 minutes, once the game had long since been won.

There was more width to enjoy down the left, where Florent Malouda stretched disconcerted opponents, and Ramires offered industry and energy tucked in slightly from the opposite flank. Chelsea have appeared awkward in recent weeks, attempting to shoehorn Torres into a variety of systems to squeeze form from their £50m signing. They may have stumbled upon a solution.

Better teams might have exploited the visitors' lack of a natural defensive midfielder, with gaps sometimes apparent between Frank Lampard and Michael Essien in the centre, but the Danes were too rusty to capitalise. Johan Wiland, alone of their players, appeared sharp, but the Swedish goalkeeper was horribly overworked and his reactions staved off a drubbing. He denied Torres a hat-trick, blocking at the Spaniard's feet twice in the first half and then pushing away a well-worked attempt with an outstretched hand after the break. When the goalkeeper was beaten, Oscar Wendt scrambled back to clear an effort from the line.

There was fluid movement and clever combination play to admire from Torres, as well as industry in tracking back to sniff out possession. He departed heartened, feeling as if he belonged, though Anelka's goals secured the victory. The Frenchman has rejoiced in the Champions League this term and he maintained outstanding form with two goals that left the locals numbed in a bitter sense of anticlimax.

Stale Solbakken's side had been preparing specifically for this contest since returning to training in early January, but were off the pace and out-muscled throughout. Not since Marseille won here a little over a year ago have their first-choice team been outclassed at Parken. At no stage did they threaten to snuff out Anelka's menace; the return fixture must now feel daunting.

The Frenchman had already been denied twice when Jesper Gronkjaer, a Chelsea player for four years until 2004, attempted to find Claudemir and merely presented Anelka with possession just inside the Danish side's half. The Frenchman was allowed to glide into the area unchallenged, Mikael Antonsson unable to muster a tackle, before finishing smartly beyond Wiland. "They were stronger than us and we made too many technical errors," said Solbakken,. Gronkjaer's misplaced pass was more basic.

The home side attempted to stir after the interval but Chelsea retained their bite on the break and a second goal reflected their true dominance. Lampard collected from Essien 54 minutes in and with the Danes anticipating a delivery for Torres, conjured a neat reverse pass to by-pass Antonsson and send Anelka through. The 31-year-old's finish was low and true, across Wiland and into the corner.

Ancelotti departed with the substantial travelling support chanting his name, prompting a polite wave and even the hint of a grin. Manchester United will test at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday whether the tide has truly turned but although a second leg of this tie awaits in three weeks' time, Chelsea will already feel as if the last eight beckons.

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