Premiership review: Chelsea 3 – 0 Blackburn Rovers

Match reports

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Chelsea looked a real team, more of the unstoppable machine of recent years. Michael Essien was again a rock in defence, Lassana Diarra again shone at right-back, while Lampard ran midfield. Even those controversial recruits, Michael Ballack and Andrei Shevchenko, contributed gamely, and Shevchenko even received a warm embrace from Mourinho when substituted.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “They still have Manchester United within their sights, but on the night the transfer window closed the Chelsea manager’s depleted squad are yet another man down. The crowd in Stamford Bridge winced at Ashley Cole’s bizarre self-inflicted second-half tumble and the player himself was left fearing the very worst.”

The Guardian, Jon Brodkin: “A comprehensive Chelsea win ought to have provided pure pleasure for Jose Mourinho as he tries to catch Manchester United but his joy was tempered by an injury to Ashley Cole last night. The left-back departed on a stretcher in obvious discomfort with what the manager called a “serious” left knee problem after catching first one foot and then the other in the turf as he chased a ball with no one near him.”

The Times, Matt Dickinson: “Huge issues such as the manager’s future remain unresolved, but at least this display gave hope to the Chelsea supporters that if Mourinho is to depart, it could yet be on a high. It was only one match and defensive frailties cannot be passed over but, in their vigour, Chelsea showed that they have stopped feeling sorry for themselves and are prepared to battle for trophies, whatever is going on in the boardroom.”

Official Chelsea FC Website: “Blackburn had their moments but in a game run for the most part by an outstanding Lampard, and containing a Lassana Diarra display that earned his first chants from the crowd, Chelsea merited both their goals and their clean sheet.”

The goals

The good

  1. The performance. It was as far removed from the Liverpool fiasco as is humanly possible. Despite early Blackburn pressure the team really showed they were up for the fight, battling for the ball and for 20 minutes following the goal passing the ball so slickly even Arsene Wenger would have been drooling. Every player did well including Claude Makelele, despite his unswerving ability to concede free kicks.
  2. Lassana Diarra. Showed deft touches, tough tackling skills and real desire and commitment. The fine obviously worked.
  3. Michael Ballack. At last he showed what he’s capable of, running into great positions, showing great vision with his passing, controlling the midfield, tackling well and actually looking like a real hungry player. Unlucky not to score with an excellent chance from a header.
  4. Andriy Shevchenko. Fabulous ball control, visionary space making, should have had a hat-trick, forcing one world class save from Brad Friedel and completely arsing up another glorious chance. Jose Mourinho looked well pleased and so were the crowd.
  5. Didier Drogba and Michael Essien. Can these two possibly get even better? A frightening thought for the teams we have yet to play.
  6. Blackburn Rovers. Credit where it’s due, despite the result they came and tried to play football without cynical fouls or player histrionics. A credit to Mark Hughes who is forming a very handy unit. I was particularly impressed by Benni McCarthy and Morten Gamst Pedersen.

The bad

  1. Graham Poll. Pedantic, fussy, visually challenged and seemingly even more pompous than ever. He was at least even-handed in his awfulness giving free kicks to both teams on several occasions when they had a real advantage to play.
  2. The injury to Ashley Cole. A real sickener because he was having a real ding-dong battle with McCarthy, even on points in my view. The cruel fact was he went down with no-one within 10 yards of him and the first thought was his knee had given way. It hushed the crowd and he was given a rousing chorus as he was stretchered off in obvious pain. Still, not a bad backup in Wayne Bridge huh?
  3. The atmosphere. The evening kick-off and the unglamorous opposition obviously had an effect – I doubt there was more than 37,000 in there tonight. It took some real effort from the Matthew Harding stand to get some singing going but compared to other evening games I’ve attended it was hardly spine-chilling.
  4. Ricardo Carvalho’s bizarre goal line clearance. The ball was going in, but Carvalho seemed to be gazing elsewhere as he ran back to try and prevent the goal, only to spring into life with the ball inches from crossing the line despite the fact he could have hooked it clear a few seconds before. Not really bad, but bloody weird.
  5. The girl who sits two rows behind me didn’t turn up tonight and she is drop dead gorgeous. I am comforted by the fact that even if we have a bad game I can gaze longingly at her and fantasize about what I think she really needs from me. Just don’t tell my wife that!

Man of the Match

Well for me it would be Didier Drogba again, just shading Michael Essien, but I welcome any suggestions because frankly every player was downright bloody marvellous tonight and any criticism would really be me nit-picking to say the least.

Final thoughts

We might, just might be leaving the tunnel of darkness, with John Terry due back against Charlton, Joe Cole talking about being back in March, Arjen Robben due to return and a performance that for once suggested we didn’t miss any of them. The whole team, including the bench oozed confidence, and despite the press reports, real happiness and unity. I’m not throwing street parties or getting the bunting out yet, but maybe we’ve turned the corner and can start the sprint to the line.

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