Match Report: Chelsea 2-0 Blackburn: Back to back wins mean Blues are back on track
Manager, players and fans alike breathed a sigh of relief at the sound of the final whistle as Chelsea overcame a manager-less Blackburn Rovers, winning 2-0.
The result and consequent back to back victories at Stamford Bridge will come as a welcome return to normality after a torrid mid season crisis threatened Chelsea’s title hopes. Second half goals from Branislav Ivanovich and were enough to allow Carlo Ancelotti’s side to put a winning run together for the first time since the beginning of November. The win also puts the Blues into the Premier League’s top four after a momentary fall from grace.
After last weekend’s 7-0 hammering of Ipswich Town in the FA Cup, the home support were expectant of another commanding display at the Bridge, and the games opening exchanges suggested that a repeat scoreline might just have been on the cards. Didier Drogba who has perhaps been Chelsea’s biggest under-achiever recently had a chance in the opening minutes after a lovely through ball from Anelka had the imposing striker bearing down on goal. Ex- Real Madrid golactico Michel Salgado made a fine last ditch tackle to prevent Blackburn a miserable start to the game.
From the resulting corner Ramires had a telling volley crash against the cross bar. The attempt looked destined to burst the back of Paul Robinson’s net, instead leaving the woodwork and the Rovers back line literally shaking. The visitors did reply with a long range Martin Olsson effort that needed a strong save from Petr Cech, but the first half will be remembered, if at all, for Chelsea’s inability to convert chances.
Michael Essien headed wide from a Frank Lampard corner, whilst Drogba and full back Jose Bosingwa both tried their luck from long distance but to no avail. Drogba then had an opportunity ten minutes before the interval in what was the best move of the game so far. The Ivorian again in a good position to pull the trigger, this time Gael Givet with the last minute saving tackle that denied any hope of an first half opener.
With play resumed the increasingly disgruntled home faithful did not have to wait too long for the goal they had craved all afternoon. Florent Malouda’s corner was flicked on by captain John Terry and Ivanovich was at hand to volley home from the tightest of angles. The Siberian is becoming more and more known for his goal scoring abilities after some impressive and decisive finishes this season, and there was no doubt that this one did Chelsea the world of good.
Suddenly they looked like a team in form; dare I say they looked like the team from earlier in the season that swept every team away with fast flowing attacking play. The goal also had a positive effect on the crowd and they willed their side forward with every moment of possession. Terry almost added to the scoreline with a header that went just wide of Robinson’s goal and the lead should have been doubled soon after when a criminally slack pass from Christopher Samba allowed Drogba another attempt on goal. This time Robinson was the striker’s frustrator as the ex-England man saved well with his legs.
Chelsea racked up an impressive 14 corners from this game, and the resulting set piece from the Drogba-Robinson duel led to the comfort of a 2 goal lead. Ivanovich looked eager to add to his solitary goal but his goal-bound effort was diverted in by the lurking Anelka, who impressed for much of this encounter.
It is so often that with a 2 of 3 goal cushion, Ancelotti’s side find that they play football much more confidently, with no pressure on their ageing defence. Ancelotti even saw fit to bring on youngsters Josh McCreachan and Daniel Sturridge, so confident that he had the three points safely wrapped up and ready to take-away. A typically uncharacteristic Lampard effort was easily saved by Robinson later on. A more forceful finish could easily have put the gloss on a stuttered home win, but the victory was never really in doubt once the Blues took the lead. Blackburn lacked any potency in the final third, even with returning hero Roque Santa Cruz appearing as a substitute.
Back to back wins will encourage all concerned with the club, but it was far from their best performance. But after the run of results over Christmas, the Blues will just be content to see those 3 points up on the board, and their name back in those Champions League spots where they belong.
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