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Blackburn 0 - 1 Chelsea


BlueLion.

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Blackburn Rovers 0 - 1 Chelsea FC

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Premier League, 23 December, 16:10 KO, Ewood Park, Blackburn

Joe Cole's spectacular winner earned Chelsea a hard-fought victory against Blackburn Rovers, thus increasing the gap between themselves and fourth-placed Manchester City.

The game was not without disaster, however, as goalkeeper Petr Cech limped off with an injured hip with just under an hour played. With Carlo Cudicini also injured, Chelsea enter the festive program without their first-choice goalkeepers. Nevertheless, the result means that Chelsea's Christmas fixtures begin as they mean to continue, with a battling performance and well-deserved victory and will look to build on their recent successes to respond to last weekend's defeat to Arsenal.

The match itself was predictably a feisty affair, as the two most ill-disciplined sides in the Premier League clashed at Ewood Park. However, with Chelsea in relatively good form and Blackburn on a downwards spiral, thoughts of the 0-0 draw against the same opposition were quickly banished as the Blues stuck to the task in hand. Following the impressive defeat of Liverpool in midweek, Paulo Ferreira and Ashley Cole returned to the defence as Alex played alongside Ricardo Carvalho at centre-half, replacing Tal Ben Haim. Lampard made his 350th appearance for the club, looking for his 100th goal and Michael Essien made his first league appearance since the 2-0 victory at Derby County. Mikel completed the midfield, and Andrei Shevchenko featured as the focal point of a three-man attack which also boasted Joe Cole and Salomon Kalou.

With just one league win in their last eight games, it was no surprise to see the home side raise their game for the visit of a side who had conceded just two goals in almost 1000 minutes of Premier League football, and just 10 all campaign. Blackburn were the first to seriously threaten and would have taken a third-minute league if not for the wonderful challenge of Ricardo Carvalho, making just his second appearance after suffering a back injury in the 1-1 draw against Everton at the beginning of November. The Portuguese excelled, launching himself into the path of the Uruguayan's goal bound drive. Bentley's effort moments later crashed off the bar, but not before the same player had shot narrowly wide before Gamst Pedersen's fizzing corner had evaded the head of Nelsen at the near post. Any sort of connection by the Australian would have seriously tested Cech, but the Blackburn skipper failed to make contact.

Excellent work by Bentley saw Santa Cruz through one-on-one with Cech in arguably Blackburn's best spell of the game, but with Alex bearing down on him, the in-form striker's drive was inches wide of the far post. The chance was a good one, but the striker had done well to test the goalkeeper from such a difficult position. The home fans were becoming frustrated with the amount of efforts gone begging. Their frustrated was well founded, as Chelsea carved open their only necessary opportunity of the game with such simplicity that it was brilliant.

A hopeful ball launched from the Blackburn defence was well stolen by Carvalho. The defender-cum-central midfielder soon passed to Frank Lampard. The England player fed Salomon Kalou, whose fantastic through ball sliced open the home side's rearguard and found Joe Cole both onside and in an excellent scoring position. The England winger did not disappoint, and his explosive effort beat Friedel at the near post from 15 yards. The angled drive to the top corner was Cole's third league goal this campaign, and respectable total for a player who has yet to hold down a regular place thus far this campaign.

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Though not at all in the game, the next spell of Chelsea possession was all about Andrei Shevchenko. Whilst he had struggled throughout and had yet to test Friedel, the Ukrainian was chasing balls across the park and applying much pressure on the Blackburn defence. Whilst his work rate was exceptional, it was only with five minutes remaining in the first half that he sprang to life. His first contribution to the game was a difficult effort which even a man of such European pedigree failed to finish - his sharp turn and volley under pressure and from an acute angle was high, wide and hardly handsome.

However he continued to soldier on and was a persistent thorn in the side of the Blackburn defence as Chelsea looked for the second goal. The Ukrainian crossed from the left searching for Kalou, but Friedel did well to block the cross before the ball was well cleared. Chelsea almost lived to regret their inability to finish off games, as Steven Reid broke through. The player's effort was powerful but could not beat Cech, who showed wonderful reactions to palm the ball onto the crossbar before Ashley Cole cleared. Lampard should have scored at the other end from 25 yards mere moments after, but Friedel tipped the ball onto the post with his fingertips.

The second half was a master class in defending by Carvalho, as the Portuguese marshalled his defence into action. Cech was superb also, plucking balls out of the sky left, right and centre before he cleared the ball from outside his six yard box with a fierce punch as Santa Cruz looked to control and shoot. However, his bravery was punished as he fell awkwardly on his hip. Trying to battle on, the Czech Republic vice-captain was finally substituted by Henrique Hilario.

Despite his lack of match time, Hilario was as impressive. Despite looking shaky on a number of occasions, the excellent defending of Carvalho and Alex ensured that Blackburn were restricted to several long range efforts, although the goalkeeper did make a wonderful save when Santa Cruz was left unmarked on 70 minutes. The striker's header was strong and destined for the corner, but Hilario saved point blank and his outstretched left hand ensured Chelsea earned their eleventh Premier League clean sheet. The second half was not all of Blackburn's making, as Chelsea looked to exercise their knowledge of the counter attack, however their best opportunity of the second period fell to Kalou whose header was saved by Friedel.

______________________________________

Match Fact : Blackburn Rovers have failed to score against Chelsea in five of the last six meetings between the sides, although they did score in their 1-2 loss in the FA Cup against the competition's eventual winners.

Man of the Match : Joe Cole

Blackburn (4-2-3-1): Friedel; Emerton, Khizanishvili, Nelson ©, Warnock; Tugay (Roberts 72), Reid; Dunn, Bentley, Pedersen; Santa Cruz.

Booked Dunn 37.

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech (Hilario 63); Ferreira, Alex, Carvalho, A Cole; Essien, Mikel, Makelele, Lampard ©; Kalou, Shevchenko (Wright-Phillips 66), J Cole (Pizarro 81).

Scorer J Cole 21.

Booked Alex 37, Carvalho 78.

Edited by BlueLion
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