Blackpool 1-3 Chelsea – Kalou proves the difference against depleted Tangerines

As much as this game was about a relegation battle for the hosts and a late title charge from the visitors, inevitably the sub-plot again surrounded striker Fernando Torres, as Carlo Ancelotti continued his attempts to mould the £50m man into his Chelsea side.

Ancelotti gave Didier Drogba his chance to form a marriage with the Spaniard in a 4-4-2 formation but ironically it was the former’s departure, due to injury, and Solomon Kalou’s introduction, that proved game changing. Blackpool were without their two highest scorers, Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell, but Andy Reid attempted to pick up the reins in the Scot’s absence and started brightly as the hosts tried to ruffle the Premier League champions.

John Terry’s headed opener proved the biggest catalyst for Blackpool who subsequently grew into the game and attacked with more fluidity; their best outlet coming down the right through goal scorer James Puncheon. Ultimately, however, they lacked the killer touch, which either of the two absentees might have provided.

Ancelotti employed Yuri Zhirkov on the left side of the four man midfield as Flourent Malouda dropped to the bench, but it was this change of personnel that left the visitors unbalanced with most success coming centrally through match-winner Frank Lampard. Drogba and Torres again displayed little companionship as the latter continued to kick-start his personal Chelsea evolution.

Kalou’s introduction changed the game in favour of Chelsea almost immediately as he played deeper than the departed Ivorian, continually finding space just behind Torres as Blackpool struggled to pick him up. The second goal visibly deflated the hosts. Their passing game, which had pushed the champions in the latter stages of the first half, went missing and they gave away possession, allowing the Blues to take the sting out of the game. This was the first time in the evening when the absence of Adam as a guiding and creative force was genuinely felt.

Ian Holloway’s last throw of the dice saw youngster Matt Phillips and veteran Brett Omerod thrown into the fray, as Chelsea threatened to become the first team this term to keep a clean sheet at Bloomfield Road. The champions’ third goal extinguished the game as a contest and they then attempted to kill off the game through sustained possession. Barring a late flurry and goal from the Seasiders, it was a ploy that paid off.

So as Torres continues to labour into his Chelsea career, a definite lack of continuity in complementing him is having a negative effect on El Nino. However if his new side keeps winning that is a problem Ancelotti will be given time to solve. As for Holloway’s men, they continue their amazing record of scoring in every Premier League home game this season. Little consolation on an evening where Chelsea were more efficient than dazzling in keeping their faint title hopes alive while pushing the Tangerines nearer to relegation.

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