Not 100%, But Still Top Of The League

Ewood Park has never been an easy place to go, with Blackburn renowned for their physical approach, and more so since Sam ‘Bolton’ Allardyce became their manager.

It was no surprise then that we were in for a tough match, what was a surprise was the style of football played by Blackburn, rough yes, but more football than fight.

Chelsea lined up exactly as I’d predicted, with Ivanovic replacing Ferreira at right back in order to match up to the expected physical contest, and Alex returned from injury alongside Terry and Cole in defence.

Zhirkov continued on the left of a midfield that also included Essien and Mikel, with Drogba up front, augmented by the French duo of Anelka and Malouda.

Chelsea started strongly, with some lovely passing and movement in the opening minutes, looking a different team to that which played Wolves the previous weekend, however it was not to last as passes went astray and Blackburn took control.

Some nice play, mostly involving El-Hadji Diouf down the Chelsea right, saw Blackburn work a number of good balls into the box, with thankfully no-one able to get on the end of them, and when they did a blue shirt in the way to block any shots.

Nerves were frayed when Diouf tried to chip Cech, with the stopper slipping as he prepared his feet, a quick recovery and he through himself at the ball, tipping it wide enough for Alex to clear for a corner, preventing a certain goal.

A goal looked likely, and it came for Blackburn. Diouf was again afforded too much time and space and crossed for Benjani to head home for Rovers, marking his first goal for the club on his debut.

It wasn’t all Blackburn though, with Zhirkov, Essien and Malouda all trying their luck from range, Chelsea’s equaliser came by the way of a Blackburn-esque route one attempt, Malouda drilled a ball from deep into the area, onto the head of Didier Drogba, the Ivorian nodded it across goal for Anelka to slot home.

The second half started brightly for Chelsea with Cole, Zhirkov and substitute Daniel Sturridge all trying their luck but getting no reward, Rovers had an opportunity to win it late on as a counter attack by Rovers fed the ball to Roberts, who slotted wide past Cech after doing the hard work in beating Ashley Cole.

Just as a draw looked the more likely result, up popped Ivanovic to change all that. Some good work by Anelka on the left of the Rovers area worked the ball to Zhirkov, who beat his man and chipped a cute ball across the penalty area.

With many of the Rovers players chasing the ball, they hadn’t seen Ivanovic in space and it was too late for them as he rose high and planted a fierce header into the back of the Blackburn net to make it 2-1 with only minutes remaining.

After the match, Ancelotti was quick to praise the impact of his Russian winger; “With the fantastic play of Zhirkov we were able to win the game, I said when he scored the goal against Spartak Moscow in the Champions League it improved his confidence. He is playing continuously and so he is showing good football.”

He added; “He is working for the team, had an assist against Wolves at home and an assist today, he is a very efficient player. He has a future, we have trust in him, last season he was ready when he substituted Ashley Cole to the end of the season.”

After admitting mid-week that Chelsea still weren’t playing to full potential, Ancelotti said of the match; “Blackburn played a good game in the first half, they put strong pressure on and we were not able to play our football or find space in the middle of the pitch.”

“We had difficulty first half, second half was better, we took a risk with counter-attack because Blackburn could score before our goal, we were a little bit lucky.” He added; “The game was difficult but the second half was better. We knew that here was difficult to win, every team has difficulty here, Blackburn at home is a very good team, they use a lot strength and ability on the long balls.

“For this reason it is important to win here, we maintain the top and we are in good condition and confidence will improve with this victory.”

Chelsea (4-3-3):Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry (c), Cole; Essien, Mikel, Zhirkov; Anelka (Ferreira 90+2), Drogba, Malouda (Sturridge 71).

Goals: Anelka 38, Ivanovic 83
Attendance 25,836

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