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Chelsea 1-1 Wigan


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Chelsea F.C. 1 - 1 Wigan

April 14 2008, Premier League, Stamford Bridge, West London

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Chelsea failed to close the gap on Manchester United following a 1-1 home draw with Wigan.


The result leaves Chelsea five points behind the Champions, effectively ending any harbouring title hopes for the Blues. Chelsea were below-par in the first half and only the introduction of Joe Cole provided entertainment to the Stamford Bridge faithful. Michael Essien's stunning strike opened the scoring, but as Chelsea poured forward looking to secure the win, Wigan hit the home side on the break and Emile Heskey capitalised on the space provided to head beyond Petr Cech.

Cech was one of many changes manager Avram Grant made to the Chelsea side, with the Czech fit following a collision with team-mate Tal Ben Haim. Juliano Belletti was restored at right-back, with Michael Essien replacing the unavailable Frank Lampard. Florent Malouda deputised for the rested Joe Cole, whilst Ricardo Carvalho was rested in favour of Alex da Costa. Wayne Bridge played at left-back. Nicolas Anelka led the Chelsea line in place of the injured Didier Drogba.

Chelsea began at a lively tempo but were not showing many signs of ambition, as both sides opted to pass the ball around and allow each player to have a touch. Yet Chelsea were fast on the break and Anelka flashed a header wide after brilliant work by Salomon Kalou - the Frenchman directing his headed effort beyond the far post.

The France international made much out of nothing when he looped an Essien cross goalbound, only to be denied by Chris Kirkland. The Wigan keeper was at full-stretch, and it took all of the England international's quality to lift the ball over the crossbar. Whilst Chelsea were relieved to have Petr Cech fit once again, Kirkland was demonstrating his worth to manager Steve Bruce.

Skoko cleared off the line for Wigan but the Latics were not without chances of their own, as Antonio Valencia forced a decent save out of Petr Cech from distance; the Czech getting his body behind the ball and pushing it for a corner. Scharner blasted over wastefully late on in the half but the Chelsea goal remained intact.

Joe Cole was introduced to the fray in place of Malouda at half-time and the home side were immediately galvanised by his mere presence and technical excellence. Chelsea were creating more chances and it was only a mixture of an inspired Kirkland performance and the goal frame that prevented the Blues from taking the lead.

Terry crashed a volley against the crossbar from 9 yards; a Belletti corner evading both Wigan centre-halves before Chelsea's talismanic captain powered the ball against the woodwork, before Kalou was superbly denied by Kirkland. However, on 55 minutes, Michael Essien fired beyond the England goalkeeper from 22 yards with a blistering strike.

Kalou fed Anelka, who brilliantly held the ball up for the Ghanaian, who powered the ball home with the perfect mix of power and placement beyond the outstretched arm of the Wigan shot-stopper. It was a goal that was met with as much relief as joy, and Joe Cole's introduction had put a spring in the step of the Blues.

Joe Cole shot narrowly over from 18 yards moments later as Chelsea looked to build on their lead, before Michael Ballack went close with a freekick. Kirkland denied Alex da Costa with a smart reflex save, tipping the ball away after a Belletti corner was met by the big Brazilian.

But the longer the game progressed with the score at 1-0, the more confident Wigan became, and two excellent chances fell their way in the last five minutes, Sibierski's sharp turn saw him denied only by a strong parry by Cech, but Heskey later volleyed home in stoppage time from a Koumas cross to turn the title race in favour the current champions.

___________________________________________________________________

Match Fact : Chelsea are unbeaten in 80 home league matches.

Chelsea: Cech, Belletti, Alex, Terry, Bridge, Ballack, Essien, Obi (Shevchenko 90), Kalou, Anelka, Malouda (Joe Cole 46).

Wigan: Kirkland, Melchiot, Scharner, Boyce, Kilbane, Valencia, Skoko (Koumas 56), Palacios, Taylor (King 79), Heskey, Bent (Sibierski 64).

Attendance: 40,500

Referee: Andre Marriner

Man of the Match : Chris Kirkland

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Edited by DavidEU
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