From The Sublime To The…Somewhat Less Sublime

OK, so Chelsea’s 1-1 draw at Wigan on Saturday evening wasn’t exactly ridiculous, but a collection of errors saw the Blues contrive to throw away what should have been a routine three points.

After a fantastic performance against Manchester City on Monday night, a trip to a cold and snowy Wigan was always bound to be somewhat anticlimactic but from a position of relative strength after Daniel Sturridge’s second half opener, Chelsea allowed Jordi Gomez to equalise just moments from time to hand the hosts just a sixth home point of the campaign.

Andre Villas-Boas made just one change from Monday’s victorious eleven, restoring Frank Lampard to the midfield in place of Ramires, who was struggling with an injury.

David Luiz was eligible to return from a one-match suspension but he was left out as a precaution after also feeling a knock this week. Both Brazilians are said to be likely starters away to Tottenham next Thursday.

Wigan switched to an unfamiliar 5-3-2 formation with midfielder David Jones in an unfamiliar role at left back, whilst Victor Moses supported Connor Sammon up front.

The hosts set out their stall to make things hard for Chelsea, who had racked up 15 unanswered goals in their last three meetings with the Latics, and defended deep and in numbers.

It was to prove a successful approach, as a lethargic Chelsea side struggled without the direct running and remarkable endurance of Ramires in the midfield and lacked penetration throughout the first half.

A stooping header from Didier Drogba and a speculative volley by Oriol Romeu both went the wrong side of Ali Al-Habsi’s right hand post, whilst John Terry’s ambitious long-range effort flew wide the other side.

Wigan meanwhile had two penalty appeals fall on deaf ears as Martin Atkinson saw no infringements first on Jordi Gomez and then against Branislav Ivanovic, who saw a Moses effort hit a hand which was close to his body.

After an uninspiring opening gambit, Villas-Boas introduced Salomon Kalou for the second half, replacing Romeu, who was barely needed with Wigan preferring to attack only on the break.

The Ivorian immediately showed signs of life, shooting wide and creating a half-chance for compatriot Drogba within moments of his arrival.

Frank Lampard received a bloody mouth in a tussle with Maynor Figueroa but whilst the England international was receiving treatment on the touchline, his teammates fashioned a deserved lead.

Ashley Cole’s inch-perfect cross-field pass picked out Sturridge, who had escaped the attentions of his marker long enough to be able to trap the ball and fire a right-footed effort beyond the reach of Al-Habsi from a tight angle.

It was Sturridge’s ninth goal of the season, making him the club’s leading scorer in 2011-12.

With the lead safely secured Villas-Boas set about preserving it, reverting to his base formation by replacing Mata with John Obi Mikel. Roberto Martinez countered by throwing Franco Di Santo and Hugo Rodallega into the mix.

Spurred on by Chelsea’s apparent contentness with their slender advantage, Wigan pressed forward and began to make Petr Cech work. Figueroa was afforded space to size up a shot which drew a full-stretch save from the Czech custodian.

Terry received treatment after landing awkwardly in a tussle with Di Santo and caused some consternation for Blues followers after appearing to suffer a serious knee problem. He was however able to resume.

A sloppy backpass from defensive partner Branislav Ivanovic presented an opportunity to Rodallega but Cech was quick to scramble clear before the Serbian made amends for his error by heading Di Santo’s goalbound effort away for a corner.

Cech limped around having suffered a blow to the foot in collision with Rodallega, whilst Sturridge also felt the impact of a Wigan player when Figueroa landed awkwardly on his lower back.

The latter was replaced by Florent Malouda for the final ten minutes but the lion’s share of the game was being played in Chelsea’s half of the field.

That said, it came as something of a surprise when the leveller arrived. Bosingwa was caught high up the pitch and allowed Di Santo to run in behind. With Ivanovic forced to cover, it left Chelsea stretched and after Cech spilt Rodallega’s tame effort, Gomez was able to clean up with his fourth goal in five appearances.

Speaking after the match, Villas-Boas attributed the loss of two points to a lack of concentration:

‘We tried hard, it was difficult because Wigan are a different side now. They have momentum from their recent run of good results, the crowd were behind them and they fought hard to get the points.

‘They made the best of our lack of concentration. We had Bosingwa, Terry and Cole behind the ball but it was part of a situation where Cech lost track of the opponent and they scored.’

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech, Bosingwa, Ivanovic, Terry (c), Cole, Romeu (Kalou 45), Meireles, Lampard, Mata (Mikel 66), Sturridge (Malouda 79), Drogba.
Subs not Used: Turnbull, Ferreira, McEachran, Torres.