Premiership: Blackburn Rovers 0 – 2 Chelsea

Match reports

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “It is engrossing to watch Chelsea at the moment but the mesmeric power has nothing to do with the glamour in Jose Mourinho’s squad. Particularly at away grounds the fascination lies in the sight of champions trying to rediscover their old selves.”

The Independent, James Lawton: “Chelsea’s problem was the same as the one that afflicted them at Middlesbrough. It was a lack of balance, a sense that the individual midfield strength of such as Lampard, Ballack and Essien was draining away in the starkest case of duplication.”

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “It was a clear penalty, and Mark Clattenburg was correct, as Jose Mourinho pointed out. “If a player holds on to another for two to three seconds, it is a penalty,” observed the Chelsea manager.”

The Times, Oliver Kay: “It was a performance that failed either to stir the soul or to resolve any of the various tactical conundrums thrown up by their summer transfer activity, but Jose Mourinho would prefer his detractors to ignore all that and marvel at the way that his machine clicked straight back into gear after their surprise defeat by Middlesbrough.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “It was not a masterful Chelsea performance. But the win was, in the end, by a clear margin. This was grand for confidence. As for Blackburn, who attracted a crowd of just 19,398 and saw many of them leave before the end, things may not work out so well this season.”

The good

  1. Petr Cech. Made his first appearance since undergoing shoulder surgery after the World Cup and was simply outstanding: decisive, brave, different class. Without him the team might have had to settle for a single point or less.
  2. Didier Drogba. Despite only playing a little over thirty minutes of the second half, and with the team already a goal to the good, the big Ivorian still made a significant impact. Salomon Kalou, whom Drogba replaced, played reasonably well but lacks composure when it matters – he is only 20 and has time to learn. Drogba also lacks composure on occasions but brings so much more to the team, most notably pace and power. Drogba demonstrated these qualities in the 81st minute: notwithstanding the vice-like attentions of Andre Ooijer, who had already given Chelsea a penalty after bringing down John Terry, he stayed on his feet, even keeping his balance when Ooijer’s last desperate attempt to trip him failed, and smashed the ball past Brad Friedel from an increasingly difficult angle. A great goal which came at just the right time.
  3. The result. It was imperative Chelsea left Ewood Park with three points after last Wednesday’s defeat to Middlesbrough; the performance was secondary. Saying that, it was evident there’s still a lot of improving to do.

The bad

  1. The narrow, diamond midfield formation. It just didn’t seem to click, particularly in the first half. Some credit for this must go to Blackburn whose ability to limit space in the middle third of the pitch gave little opportunity for free-flowing football. Frank Lampard appeared hampered by the presence of the two Michaels, Essien and Ballack, and it wasn’t until Rovers had to chase the game that the diamond seemed to function as intended.

    Mourinho declared himself satisfied with the wingless line-up saying, “I think we are adapting to the players we have because we don’t have Robben and we don’t have Joe Cole.” On this evidence there’s a tad more adapting to do. And one is left pondering what Shaun Wright-Phillips thinks of Mourinho’s starting eleven.

  2. Mark Hughes. The Blackburn manager’s implication during his post-match interview that John Terry dived to earn Chelsea’s penalty had me wondering if the former Blue had developed a touch of Arsene Wenger’s selective myopia; Ooijer’s bear hug on Terry couldn’t have been a more blatant penalty.

    Admittedly Ricardo Carvalho was lucky not to concede a spot-kick at the other end when he pulled back Jason Roberts, but that was no reason for Hughes to question Terry’s integrity. Replays of the Carvalho incident showed that Claude Makelele was obstructing referee Mark Clattenburg’s view, proving that the Portuguese defender had fortune on his side once again (he got away with a similar shirt pull on Yakubu Ayegbeni at the Riverside). There’s no doubt his use of the dark arts of defending will cost the team at some point in the near future, probably during one of the upcoming games against Barcelona in the Champions League.

Man of the Match

Petr Cech. See above.

Final thoughts

I was just happy to see the players come away from Ewood Park with three points and no injuries; it was only the third game of a very long season so the performance was less important. There’s no doubt that the improvement will come, and very soon everything will click into place and somebody will be on the end of a thrashing – hopefully Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in three weeks’ time.

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