Club Focus – Chelsea – Blues’ late winner keeps them out in front

Branislav Ivanovic nodded in the winner with less than 6 minutes left on the clock as Chelsea came from behind to claim all three points against Blackburn at Ewood Park with a 2-1 win.

The league leaders maintained their five point lead at the top of the Barclays Premier League as goals from Nicolas Anelka and Ivanovic cancelled out and then eclipsed the opener by Rovers’ Benjani. The win matched the victories that Arsenal and Manchester United recorded on Saturday over West Ham and Tottenham and keeps breathing space between them and the Blues but Manchester City, who also started the weekend five points adrift fell further behind thanks to their second successive league defeat.

Carlo Ancelotti looked to be expecting an aerial bombardment from Rovers as signified by the returns of Ivanovic and Alex to the starting line-up but it was on the ground that Sam Allardyce’s prospered in the opening half. Apart from an Ivanovic cross that just eluded Didier Drogba, it was the home side that looked the most potent. For the second week running, Chelsea failed to find their usual attacking fluidity and were pegged back by Blackburn. Mame Diouf went close with a well-disguised lob before Benjani opened the scoring by converting an El-Hadji Diouf. The lead was nearly doubled minutes later but Petr Cech’s interception when Mame Diouf looked poised to score, acted as a spark for Chelsea.

Instead, the missed chance allowed Chelsea to settle. Michael Essien toe-poked a chance before Anelka swept the league champions level from a Drogba nod down. After the break, Chelsea looked much-improved and both teams started the second period with the intention of claiming a winner. Mame Diouf and Jason Roberts nearly restored a deserved lead for Blackburn before Ivanovic headed home from Yuri Zhirkov’s delightful cross.

Speaking after the match, Carlo Ancelotti seemed under no illusions that his side had been rather fortunate to leave the Northwest with all three points thanks to the late goal by his Serbian defender. Speaking to BBC Sport, the Italian said: “Blackburn could have scored before our goal and we were a little bit lucky. To win here was important because they were better. We were not great again.” Despite another disappointing performance, the Chelsea coach was quick to admit that it wasn’t just because his players were poor but also the performance of Allardyce’s men. “Blackburn put us under some pressure and we were not able to play our football. We knew it would be difficult to win here because Blackburn are a very good team with a lot of strength and physical ability.”

He did reserve special praise for the eventual match winner. “We were heading for a draw then we had the fantastic play of Zhirkov and we were able to win this game.” The recent performances of the Russian in the centre of midfield should give Ancelotti quite the selection headache when Frank Lampard makes his expected return from hernia surgery next week for the clash with Liverpool.

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