Anelka 39, Ivanovic 84
Chelsea put last year’s disappointing Ewood Park visits to bed thanks to a late Branislav Ivanovic header. The visitors have now won four of their last five visits to the Lancashire based club, but were dumped out in a thrilling Carling Cup encounter and dropped two vital points in the race for the title last term.
In his pre-match press conference, Carlo Ancelotti declared that he enjoyed the clash of two contrasting styles of football, but the Italian’s nous was evident when he gave Ivanovic the nod over Paulo Ferriera at right back. With Frank Lampard now absent for 11 consecutive games, Yuri Zhirkov continued to pull the strings in midfield, but any sniff of Chelsea momentum was soon suffocated by a tireless Blackburn.
Allardyce and his under fire squad have responded well to the media’s highly critical assessment of their tactics and on the immaculate Ewood Park turf. It was Rovers who dictated a jaded Chelsea, taking the lead after a good passage of slick passing and sustained pressure. Petr Cech had not long recovered from a slip to temporarily preserve his record of five games without conceding before Benjani ghosted in to convert an El-Hadji Diouf cross, albeit with his shoulder.
Chelsea were well and truly on the ropes and if not for their keeper’s fingertips, would have been two down at the break. With the hosts counting down to a thoroughly deserved halftime lead, the Premier League leaders flashed into life, taking a leaf out of Blackburn’s book in the process. A mammoth kick down field from Cech was exquisitely controlled by Florent Malouda who’s deep cross was unselfishly headed back across goal by Didier Drogba for Nicolas Anelka to level the scores.
After the restart, Blackburn’s intensity understandably died as the game stretched across the carpet-like surface. Chances were spurned as both teams went for the win and had Jason Roberts found the net when through on goal, Allardyce would have snatched a massive, and fully justified three points. Alas, football is a cruel game where performance counts for little and with the clock ticking away, Ivanovic rose unmarked at the back post to steal the points for Chelsea.
The result flattered Ancelotti’s Blues who face Liverpool at Anfield after the visit of Spartak Moscow in the Champions League on Wednesday, and had John Terry and Alex come up against a more potent attacking threat then Roberts and Benjani, Rovers could have embarrassed Chelsea. Drogba flickered in and out of the exhilarating encounter without ever threatening the mountainous frame of Chris Samba, and with Lampard due to start training early this week, Ancelotti could look to the talismanic midfielder to inject some creativity into what is fast becoming a stagnant Chelsea side.
2 Ivanovic – 26 Terry – 2 Ivanovic – 3 Cole>
5 Essien – 12 Mikel – 18 Zhirkov
39 Anelka – 11 Drogba – 15 Malouda
72 – 23 Sturridge on for 15 Malouda
90 – 19 Ferreira on for 39 Anelka