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Blues triumphant in Battle of Britain


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Rangers 1-3 Chelsea

Blues triumphant in Battle of Britain

7th Aug 2011, In Match Reports, by Alex Hinsley

Sturridge-away-kit.jpgGoals from Daniel Sturridge and Florent Malouda saw Andre Villas-Boas’ Chelsea side beat Rangers at Ibrox, concluding a perfect pre-season campaign under the Portuguese tactician ahead of the new Premier League season.

In an atmosphere even more vociferous and frivolous than expected, even considering the vast mutual respect between the two clubs and their supporters, the hosts had been headed in front by Nikica Jelavic inside six minutes – though two goals from Daniel Sturridge quickly saw the match turned on its head as a Chelsea team superior to Rangers in both form and fitness quickly responded.

Florent Malouda added a third goal – one the Blues’ performance had warranted – with a headed finish after superb build-up play between Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba, whilst there was still time for Drogba to lash a late effort against the woodwork and Frank Lampard see a penalty well-saved in an eventful game played out in respectful fashion between these two great clubs. One episode of handbags aside, this was, in every sense of the word, a true friendly match.

The cacophony of noise created by both sets of supporters was truly a wonder to experience, as both Chelsea and Rangers fans joined in with each other’s songs. Whilst the pitch was ritualistically pelted from every corner by celery, the foundations at Ibrox shook as the largest-ever rendition of the bouncy reflected the carnival mood inside the ground.

Something similar was occurring at pitch level – a wholly-entertaining match saw opportunities for both sides and some excellent football despite this early stage of the season. For Chelsea, this was the perfect chance for the new coach to reach a firm conclusion after six wins from as many matches against a gradually-improving level of opposition.

Despite their recent exit from the Champions League qualifying round at the hands of Malmo, Rangers would prove a firm test for Villas-Boas’ charges considering that the Scottish Premier League season is already well underway. Nearly had 47,500 people packed into Ibrox, and the crowd was treated to a whirlwind start by the hosts that belied their current inconsistencies.

It seemed to be a case of ‘beware the wounded beast’ as despite being knocked out of the Champions League at the first hurdle, Rangers looked a side with a point to prove. Their high-tempo start caught Chelsea off-guard, and with less than two minutes played, the first opportunity of the match had fallen the way of the home side, but a free header for Kirk Broadfoot was wasted as he failed to test Petr Cech when well-placed.

Acknowledging this, the Chelsea defence surged into life and began to close down their opponents, snuffing out a lot of Rangers’ early attacking threat. Suddenly Chelsea seemed to have established a foot-hold in the game after a brace of half-chances that saw Alex lash a free-kick a couple of feet wide from fully 40 yards, whilst there were also decent shouts for a Blues penalty as the lively Salomon Kalou looked to have been pulled back by Lee Wallace.

Yet with six minutes played, Rangers’ lively play during the opening exchanges was rewarded when Jelavic headed home at the far post after a Steven Naismith cross. Chelsea had been caught on the counter-attack after Kalou had been robbed of possession, and a lack of defensive discipline cost the Blues dearly as the unmarked Rangers striker nodded beyond Petr Cech. Unmarked and unchallenged, it was a sloppy first concession of pre-season for this Blues side.

The Chelsea response was both instant and impressive and parity was almost supplied by an acrobatic Kalou volley. Lampard had threaded the ball down the line to Ashley Cole, whose cross was flicked into Kalou’s path by Fernando Torres, but the Ivorian could only direct his effort straight at Alan McGregor.

Torres himself then came to the fore with a salvo of efforts, though the linesman’s flag denied him one opportunity to race through one-on-one. Another penalty decision was then turned down as the Spaniard looked to have been dragged back after superbly bringing down a long pass from John Obi Mikel.

Chelsea’s number 9 was again involved when he was fouled on the edge of the area by Bartley moments later after playing a clever one-two with Ramires. The resultant deadball opportunity saw Cole fire just wide via a deflection off the wall, but Chelsea were looking increasingly threatening, particularly with the pace and trickery of the in-form Sturridge and Torres, the latter clearly buoyed by last weekend’s goal in the Asia Trophy final against Aston Villa.

With el Nino‘s confidence flowing again, the equaliser seemed a matter of when, not if, and a couple of half-chances provided further nearly moments for the visiting side. First, a Lampard delivery from deep was headed back across goal excellently by Kalou on the stretch, but before either Alex or Terry could connect, Davies managed to clear the danger. Moments later Kalou was again proving to be a threat as he combined well with Mikel on the edge of the area. Chelsea were moving the ball around with speed and intent, leaving the hosts chasing shadows.

The deserved leveller came in the 22nd minute as Lampard and Torres combined – not for the first time – to create a goalscoring chance. There was an element of luck as Torres’ return pass ricocheted into the path of the marauding Sturridge, who fired home from eight yards with aplomb into the roof of the net – cancelling out token boos directed at him after having been involved in a short-lived scrap with Juan Ortiz.

In a pleasing display for Chelsea fans and Villas-Boas alike, further signs of a Torres revival saw the Spanish star launch a stinging drive from 25 yards that McGregor found too hot to handle, whilst at the other end, only a combination of some good goalkeeping by Cech and a belated flag from the linesman denied Rangers a chance on goal as a clever early free-kick deceived the Blues backline. Countering instantly, Ashley Cole again found the killer cross a missing part of his inventory as he once more skewed a cut-back too close to the goalkeeper.

With half-an-hour on the clock, Torres and Lampard combined again but Kalou laboured inside the penalty area and any opportunity of getting a shot away was denied by retreating numbers.

Moments afterwards, however, Sturridge capitalised on a poor Broadfoot backpass; first blocking the full-back’s attempted ball back to McGregor before surging into the area and finishing emphatically. It was a goal akin to the in-form Sturridge who had starred for Bolton in the second half of last season, and underlined the Englishman’s supreme confidence.

Torres then turned creator once again as he teed up Kalou, but the Ivory Coast international’s curling first-time effort was saved well by McGregor away to his left, and then the Spaniard himself saw a shot charged down by Maurice Edu. Clearly reinvigorated, Torres was proving to be the attacking fulcrum through which the majority of the Blues’ attacks were directed, but whilst John Mikel Obi flashed a volley wide and a poor touch from Sturridge denied him a hat-trick chance, Chelsea’s dominance was currently rewarded only by a one-goal margin.

Superb play by the returning Ramires saw further chances to increase the lead, but after his initial cross was cleared, the Brazilian then linked well with Lampard, who cleverly flicked the ball into Cole’s path. The full-back – who had failed to score at all in the 2010/11 season – again demonstrated his blues in front of goal as he opted to cut the ball back instead of lashing across the goalkeeper. Predictably, the cross was underhit and poorly-directed when a shot would have been a better choice – perhaps a sign of a lack of confidence.

The only sour point of the game came just before the whistle for the interval as Mikel limped off after seemingly twisting his ankle, and whilst Rangers seemed to emerge after half-time with renewed energy and vigour, they were soon again on the back foot as Chelsea sought to seize the initiative.

Chelsea’s incisive passing was a joy to witness, and clever movement from the forwards was causing no end of problems to the Rangers backline. Half-time substitutes Didier Drogba and Jose Bosingwa were heavily involved with the side’s attacking plays, and moments after Drogba had failed in threading through a cute pass to Kalou, he again set up his compatriot by flicking on a brilliant cross from Bosingwa. Unfortunately, Kalou was off-balance and his half-volley did not trouble the goalkeeper.

Approaching the hour mark, Ortiz had Rangers’ first effort of the half as he skewed wide a volley when John Terry failed to properly clear a long ball. The home side’s best moments were coming from dead-ball opportunities, but the Chelsea captain fared better to clear a Davies free-kick from near the corner flag after Bosingwa had been caught out of position before conceding the foul.

There was to be no respite for Rangers as Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda entered the action on the hour mark, joining Drogba up front. With 110 goals between the attacking triumvirate in the last two seasons, an alternative dimension was being supplied with a more direct approach with less emphasis on width. Though some of the pace up front had been lost with the withdrawal of Kalou and Sturridge, the new front three were linking up well and Anelka was heavily-involved in the latter part of the match.

First he combined with McEachran and Lampard but his return cross to the far post just evaded the veteran England midfielder, before his later through-ball to Drogba was marginally out of reach of the Ivorian. Drogba then assumed the mantle of tormentor-in-chief as he first lashed a superb effort on the turn against the base of the far post, with substitute goalkeeper Neil Alexander nowhere near the shot.

But on 72 minutes came the goal of the game, and all three of Anelka, Drogba and Malouda were involved. Bosingwa slotted a weighted ball down the line to Anelka, and his cut-back found Drogba, who cleverly flicked the ball into the air for Malouda to head home. A graceful, flowing move had proved to be the icing on the cake, and two minutes later Lampard had the chance to supply the cherry on top but his lazily-struck penalty was easily-stopped by Alexander.

Unsatisfied with just a two-goal lead, Chelsea continued to pour forward and Anelka had a brace of efforts that flew narrowly wide of the uprights before Drogba’s diving header was well-held by the Rangers goalkeeper. At the opposite end, Petr Cech – a spectator for much of the game – was called into action as he gathered an effort from distance by Fleck, but Rangers’ attacking invention had seemingly been spent early on.

The final whistle was sounded as Drogba’s deflected free-kick was easily gathered by Alexander, bringing the curtain down on the most successful pre-season campaign in recent memory for the Blues. Eighteen goals scored by 13 different players, and six clean-sheets from seven victories makes for impressive reading – but even more remarkable is the improving form of the squad and the style of expansive football under Villas-Boas.

This is going to be one exciting season for Chelsea Football Club!

__________________________________________

Rangers (4-4-1-1): McGregor; McMillan, Bartley (Perry 46), Broadfoot, Wallace; Davis © (Bendiksen 62), Hutton, Edu (Fleck 46), Ortiz (Kerkar 82); Naismith (Ness 62); Jelavic (Healy 46).

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ferreira (Bosingwa 46), Alex (Kalas 86), Terry ©, Cole; Ramires (Benayoun 71), Mikel (McEachran 43), Lampard (Chalobah 85); Kalou (Malouda 59), Torres (Drogba 46), Sturridge (Anelka 59).

The TalkChelsea.net MAN OF THE MATCH was DANIEL STURRIDGE

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excellent read ..as I said yesterday knew it would far outclass the report on CFC ...

can't see anyone disputing your MOM today ..but then someone is bound to I guess

Thanks mate, I really appreciate that.

Thank you all for reading.

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