Chelsea prepared for their crunch match in Europe with a rather lacklustre win over Wigan Athletic.
A second-half Florent Malouda goal proved to be enough to secure all three points and thereby maintaining hopes of overcoming Arsenal in the coming weeks.
With a big match coming up in a few days, Carlo Ancelotti understandably rotated his side around and rested some of the key individuals. Frank Lampard, fresh from making his 500th appearance, was made the captain on the day as John Terry was given a rest. Fernando Torres also started on the bench, but there were starts for both, Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda.
Wigan had former Chelsea boy, Franco Di Santo, on their bench as they looked to continue their impressive away form, a run which has seen them collect draws away to Liverpool and Tottenham.
Chelsea started well, and Drogba created the first chance of the day as he bulldozed his way past Alcaraz on the right side to find Lampard, but he miss hit his shot and the ball fell to Ramires, whose first touch let him down.
Drogba was again involved when he laid the ball for Malouda, but the Frenchmen, under pressure and on his weak foot, could only hit his shot straight at Al-Habsi.
Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda combined once again, as Drogba’s header found the on-rushing Florent Malouda, but his shot again failed to find the back of the net.
The closest Wigan came to troubling Petr Cech in the first half was when McCarthy’s volley from over 20 yards went wide after a Wigan corner was only half-cleared.
The first half ended goalless as despite dominating the play, Chelsea lacked the final touch, making it comfortable for Wigan as the half wore on.
Carlo Ancelotti introduced Yossi Benayoun at the start of the second half in place of Obi Mikel as he looked to find creativity in the middle of the park, as well as give Mikel some rest ahead of the game against Manchester United.
The second half begin to take a similar pattern as the first, not for the first time this season one should add, making the crowd a little restless on a beautiful sunny day in London.
Soon, Carlo Ancelotti resorted to Fernando Torres to provide a spark to his Chelsea side who clearly had the United game on their minds. Nicolas Anelka came off for the Spaniard on the hour mark, meaning that he hasn’t played the full 90mins for the past 10 games now.
Fernando Torres introduction seemed to lift the whole ground who were starting to get a little jittery with Chelsea unable to find that elusive breakthrough. His first part in the game was to earn a free kick, which was again taken by the set-piece taker of the day, Didier Drogba, and forced Al-Habsi into a good save.
Chelsea soon had the lead though; Luiz flicking from a corner which Al-Habsi could only half-parry under pressure from Torres, resulting in a shot by Ivanovic, before it finally fell to Malouda, who didn’t miss the opportunity this time from six yards out to scramble it home through a melee of Wigan players in the box.
For the rest of the game we saw Fernando Torres get into good positions, but unable to take his chances to open his scoring account for the Blues, with Yossi Benayoun providing him with at least two great chances, including the ball of the match as he played a wonderful through ball down the middle to find Torres.
Wigan did remind Chelsea why a one goal lead could be a tricky situation as, first, Franco Di Santo, and then Victor Moses forced Cech into saves late on in the match.
The performance from the Blues was not their best, but they were the better side on the day and did the job, considering that a big match is coming up in the week, it wasn’t the worst possible day out which was made even better by the return of Benayoun and Alex, who in particular looked made it look that he’s never been away.
Carlo Ancelotti admitted that the United game had a role to play in the performance, but was satisfied with the three points, at the end of the match, he said; “We wanted to start well. We had a difficult game because they put a lot of pressure on us and we were not able to play our football. The first half was not so good.”
“There is some reason for this. The game was between the quarter-finals so it was difficult to stay focused on this.
“The second half was a lot better but we had lost a lot of energy in the first half. We have won a difficult game, a very important game. Now we have to look forward to the next one.”
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ferreira (Alex 75), Ivanovic, Terry, Cole; Ramires, Obi Mikel (Benayoun 46), Lampard (c); Malouda, Drogba, Anelka (Torres 59).