[EXTENDED HIGHLIGHTS] Blackpool 1-3 Chelsea: Lampard at the double to inspire sluggish Blues
Chelsea moved back into the Champions League places last night with a comfortable 3-1 win over a struggling Blackpool side. The Blues did well to avoid a seaside roller-coaster evening that has so far enticed and brought crashing upon the rocks the likes of Liverpool. A John Terry header and a Frank Lampard brace saw to it that Carlo Ancelotti’s men got the job done on a cold night by the sea. Lampard’s first came from the spot after substitute Salomon Kalou was brought down and his second also relied on the efforts of the Ivorian as he put the midfielder through on goal to kill the game as a contest. Jason Puncheon brought the Bloomfield Road faithful something to cheer about, but his goal was nothing but consolation with just four minutes left.
Whilst Blackpool continue there slide down the league table, Chelsea appear to be riding the crest of revival after a false dawn in the new year. The Blues crashed out of the FA Cup in heart-breaking circumstances to recent bogey team Everton, but appeared buoyed by last week’s dramatic comeback against Manchester United. Ancelotti was moot on whether Chelsea are still in the title race, instead content to concentrate on capturing Champions League status for next season. But having completed three straight wins in all competitions last night, the Italian may be fancying his side are still in with a shout, especially with Manchester United’s recent demise.
In typical Tangerine style, Ian Holloway’s men went about unsettling Chelsea in the only way they know how: attack. David Carney had two chances in the opening stages: the first a tame effort after some good build up play; the second a case of missed opportunity as the midfielder dwelt too long on the ball. The hosts looked the more likely to break the deadlock however their decision making in the final third proved their Achilles heel.
Chelsea capitalised on the growing sense of frustration among the home support, and after Yuri Zhirkov (who made his first start since November) and David Luiz both fired warning shots John Terry came up with the goods to put the visitors ahead. The Chelsea captain did not have to try too hard to lose his marker and with the freedom of the box to compose himself, headed low past Richard Kingson. It was an ideal time to score and had the desired effect of kick-starting an up-to-now sluggish Chelsea side.
Jose Bowingwa, who has been less than impressive for most of the season, forced Kingson into making a fine save moments later. The Portuguese defender let fly with a ferocious left foot and the Blackpool stopper needed to be equal to it in order to keep damage down to a minimum. Fernando Torres, in desperate search of his first Chelsea goal also went close but an orange shirt succeeded in blocking his driven shot.
As Chelsea sought a second, Blackpool did not look to threaten until a goalkeeping error (and don’t we just love those kinds of errors!) looked to change that. Petr Cech was called upon to make a routine save from a hard Puncheon shot but spilled the ball onto his post. Luckily the piece of ill-judgment had no bearing on the score but it did bring the home team back into the game after looking down and out. The home fans clearly felt another famous upset could be on the cards as the Seasiders finished the stronger of the two at half-time.
When play resumed, both managers sensed the next goal would be crucial. And Blackpool went hunting for it early on with loan signing James Beattie finding the space but not the execution with a free header. Things looked to be getting worse for the Blues when Didier Drogba was forced off the field holding his hip in the 55th minute. His replacement Kalou however changed the course of the game and he had an almost instantaneous impact by winning a decisive penalty.
Ian Evatt was the man to bring him down, whilst Lampard stepped up to be the man to double Chelsea’s lead. The England man rarely misses form the spot, and carried on from where he left off last week against Man Utd, calmly stroking the ball home. The bigger picture will fail to draw significance on the spot kick but it was a vital moment in the game and Lampard only highlighted the importance of his goal-scoing ability with a second just four minutes later.
Kalou certainly aided the midfielder in changing the course of the game, and his efforts will not go unnoticed by Ancelotti. The Ivorian who injected pace and vigour into Chelsea’s play, left a few defenders tied up in themselves before feeding Lampard through on goal. The midfielder finished coolly to put the game beyond any doubt and seal a vital three points in the title game of catch-up.
Puncheon responded late in the game with an accurate finish and it was maybe at least something Holloway’s men deserved for their attitude last night. But you cant help but feel that unless they can suss out a way of plugging the gaping holes in their defence, the Seasiders may well find themselves circling the drain.
For Chelsea it was a case of a job well done on a night that threatened to become a house of horrors for Ancelotti. The fact that they came away with all three points without finding second gear says much about the promise this team possesses. Post match, the Chelsea boss chose to focus on his side’s strength of character:
“Their performance was very good, John scored the first goal and Lampard the other two goals. In general all the players gave good support to the team, they work together as a team so this is important,” the Italian said.
The Italian is keeping coy about his side’s chances of retaining their championship crown, but as long as they keep getting results then they can put themselves in a position where they can capitalise on their rivals mistakes. Although I’m not convinced this roller-coaster of a season is about to lose any momentum despite coming away from the seaside with maximum points.
What did you think of Chelsea’s performance by the seaside?…Is it enough to just keep scraping out wins?…Do certain star names need to start living up to their billing?…please leave your comments below…