Prior to kick-off, fans and staff paid tribute to Blackburn legend Ronnie Clayton, who sadly passed away on Friday, aged 76. A minute’s applause was held in recognition of the former England captain. Clayton made 581 appearances and scored 15 goals between 1950 and 1969 for the Lancashire side – which was his only club. He was also capped 35 times by England. Blackburn’s performance against Chelsea would have made the Rovers legend proud.
But it was the visitors who started the game more confidently and had much of the possession during the opening exchanges. However, Rovers soon grew into the game and dominated the first half with plenty of chances. Mame Diouf and Benjani came close to putting the home side ahead and the Chelsea defence looked vulnerable and shaky. Big Sam’s men finally got their reward midway through the first half, when El-Hadji Diouf’s delicious ball from the left was powerfully headed in by Benjani. Diouf does have many critics, but nobody can deny that the Senegalese forward has started this season impressively.
Rovers continued to test Petr Cech, but the hosts conceded a goal minutes before half-time against the run of play. In a swift move, that would have been better suited to Blackburn’s more direct style of play under Allardyce, Cech released the ball high up the field to Florent Malouda, whose superb ball found Didier Drogba. The Ivorian striker headed it neatly into the path of Nicolas Anelka who made no mistake in converting the chance into a goal. The Frenchman is prolific in front of goal against the Lancashire outfit – he has scored 11 goals in 15 games against Blackburn.
Both sides carved out more chances in the second period, with Rovers perhaps creating the better opportunities. Mame Diouf was guilty of missing a tap-in, but it was substitute Jason Roberts’ effort that will have disappointed even more. Having found his way into the box after some great skill and a brilliant pass from Mame Diouf, Roberts put the ball just wide of the post. Minutes later, Rovers were punished. Chelsea’s left-sided midfielder Yuri Zhirkov put in a great cross which was met by the head of Branislav Ivanovic. The goal sent the visiting fans into raptures – Chelsea had nicked all three points from a game they hardly deserved to win.
But Blackburn should not be disheartened. The home side created several opportunities and tested the best team in the Premier League. Allardyce’s men could not be accused of playing dull football either, as many of their chances came from well-worked moves which were pleasing to the eye. However, Blackburn will have to start winning games again soon if they are to repeat their heroics of a top-half finish in the Premier League just like last season. Wigan’s visit to Ewood Park this weekend should provide Rovers with the perfect opportunity to get their season back on track.