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Blackburn 0-1 Chelsea: AVB thanks Lamps after ugly win

Chelsea overcame a stubborn Blackburn Rovers with a precious Frank Lampard goal proving decisive. After a miserable week for the Stamford Bridge club, it appeared that the win was much more important than the performance for Andre Villas-Boas and in that sense his players did not disappoint at Ewood Park. Lampard struck on the 51st minute from a Branislav Ivanovich cross after enduring long spells of pressure from the hosts, who themselves could not quite provide the finishing touches to some pleasing football.

The game was overshadowed (almost quite literally thanks to the overhead banner-carrying plane) by the backroom drama that has been playing out in Lancashire for the past few months now. The Blackburn hierarchy had banned fans from bringing any banners of protest against manager Steve Kean into the ground; the home fans very cleverly found a way round that by spelling their feelings out at 30,000 feet. For Chelsea, the draw against Genk in midweek was disappointing after the bad of their 5-3 beating against Arsenal, this game wasn’t going to be anything but ugly.

With that said, it was the visitors who looked the more unattractive in their play during the opening exchanges. Nice build up play from Junior Hoilett and Mauro Formica put summer signing Yakubu through on goal, only for the former Everton striker to put the chance wide and collide with keeper Petr Cech in the process. The game came to a 7-minute stop so that Cech could receive treatment. However the thought that this time would serve as a good chance for the away side to gather their breath and start again was mere wishful.

Neither side really looked interested in scoring in the first half although Blackburn, defying their frustrated fans jeers at manager Kean were playing a brand of football not familiar with a team in crisis. Ruben Rochina had the home side’s best chance with a 20-yard effort whilst Daniel Sturridge had a weak penalty claim waved away after a challenge from Christopher Samba. Juan Mata came agonisingly close to tapping in a Sturridge cross and Lampard blazed over from speculative distance just before the break.

Despite Blackburn starting the second half with more attacking ambition, it was Chelsea who compounded more misery on Kean by putting the visitors in front. Ivanovich crossed cleverly from the right and Lampard stooped lowest to head the ball past Paul Robinson from 6-yards. Blackburn should have been level less than 5 minutes later, Cech uncharacteristically spilling a Morten Gamst-Pedersen free-kick into the path of substitute Grant Hanley. However in a swift movement more like the Czech international, the keeper did enough to block the youngsters goal-bound effort and so keep his flailing side in the lead.

This seemed to be the moment the fans had been desperately searching for all game, as both keeper’s found themselves with numerous saves to make. First Ramires had his effort blocked before the games’ scorer Lampard forced Robinson into a finger-tip save with a thunderous drive. Yakubu then went close to snatching a well-deserved equaliser in the 67th minute after he found space between two Chelsea defenders. Minutes later Formica found time on the right hand side and while his shot beat Cech the Argentinian’s effort was cleared off the line by Ramires.

With the game petering out towards the narrowest of away wins, Blackburn had their best chance of the game. A Pedersen corner was met by the aerial challenge of Ivanovich and Givet, and not really knowing who the final touch came from, the ball bounced agonisingly against the bar before being cleared to safety.

Chances were hard to come by for the visitors and even the simplest of opportunities were spurned. Ashley Cole played in substitute Fernando Torres who could have put the finishing gloss on an awkward performance, however the Spaniard somehow missed the target.

A resounding chorus of boos and jeers met the final whistle; the home fan’s patience with Kean demonstrably on a knife edge after Lampard’s header condemned Rovers to their sixth consecutive league game without a win and treading water in the relegation zone. Chelsea’s players and fans will breathe a huge sign of relief after a torrid 90 minutes in which they never broke into stride. Too many individuals struggled to find form but it is testament to their belief- along with a slice of luck- that they fought and ground out what may prove to be a vital 3-points after what has been a week to forget at Stamford Bridge.

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