Sunday 4 December 2016

Blues cruise provides some breathing space

Chelsea 2 Blackburn 0

Published 16/01/2011 | 05:00

On Friday Carlo Ancelotti raised the possibility of Chelsea not qualifying for the Champions League this season.

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His boss not only wants to qualify for it, he wants to win it. Yesterday's victory at Stamford Bridge moved Chelsea back into the top four, at least until later this afternoon, and the unimaginable for Roman Abramovich is a little more unimaginable again.

Two goals in the second half gave Chelsea a comfortable win against a Blackburn side that looked like Sam Allardyce was still in charge and they were playing at Old Trafford.

Unlike an Allardyce side, however, Blackburn's failure to defend set-pieces cost them two second-half goals. Branislav Ivanovic and Nicolas Anelka ensured Chelsea three points and will briefly silence the talk of crisis.

"I didn't have a doubt about my position before, because the club gave me close support," Ancelotti said. The seven goals scored against Ipswich in the FA Cup last weekend had given Chelsea confidence, Ancelotti said, but this was a different type of victory.

He insisted that "the bad moment" was over, before stressing that the away game at Bolton next weekend will provide a more thorough examination of which kind of moment Chelsea are stuck in.

Ancelotti laughed off Frank Lampard's public undermining of the manager last week when the England international said the atmosphere at Chelsea was like the last days of the Scolari regime.

In selection, Ancelotti also stayed calm, or conservative, depending on your point of view. He had suggested he might pick Daniel Sturridge and Josh McEachran but his team-sheet yesterday contained the trusted or tired, depending on your point of view, Didier Drogba and Michael Essien.

Lampard's comments hadn't helped Ancelotti and he wasn't going to gamble his future on kids. "I wanted power," he said, pointing to the strength of the Blackburn side, but he also wanted experience.

Blackburn manager Steve Kean would insist later that his side are normally "aggressive" in defending set-plays but they never looked confident yesterday. From an early corner, Ramires got in front of 'Junior' Hoilett and poked a shot which clipped the top of the bar.

Until Drogba broke the offside trap and was denied by a superb recovering tackle by Gael Givet, Chelsea's early pressure only resulted in long-range shots and the occasional dangerous cross from Ashley Cole or Jose Bosingwa. Givet's tackle also indicated how much pace has gone from Drogba's legs.

Blackburn had a superb chance when play opened up for Hoilett as he ran forward, eventually finding the space to hit a shot which Petr Cech saved with his foot.

Chelsea were roused, Lampard headed over and Drogba shot wide, but it was still unimpressive. Anelka and Florent Malouda were so languid they should have lit some Gitanes and had a smoke. But sometimes even the languid are in the right place and when Drogba whipped in a fierce cross, Anelka's delicate flick hit the post.

There was little discontent at half-time and Anelka again went close at the beginning of the second half to herald some more productive Chelsea pressure.

Kean had sent on Roque Santa Cruz, back at Blackburn on loan from Manchester City, for the second half, but Blackburn couldn't keep the ball.

They couldn't deny Chelsea either. From a Malouda corner, John Terry flicked across goal. Morten Gamst Pedersen's header was weak and only reached Ivanovic eight yards out. He held the defenders off, swivelled and got a shot in which squeezed past Paul Robinson.

Chelsea haven't forgotten what victory feels like but it wasn't a jaded emotion either. Suddenly they were dynamic again, Anelka skipping by defenders, Lampard bursting into the box, Terry going close with a header that spun past the post.

Blackburn weren't helping themselves. Drogba should have scored when Christopher Samba carelessly hit a backpass straight into his path, but Robinson saved well.

It didn't matter. From the corner, Ivanovic got above the Blackburn defenders and Anelka, standing on the six-yard line, nonchalantly flicked the ball in for his first league goal since Chelsea played Blackburn in October.

Everybody wanted the ball and they were all heroes. This victory was nothing more than routine, but at Stamford Bridge things had got so bad they were ready to view it as a revival.

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