Saturday 18 November 2017

Cech: Blues braced for tricky period

Blackburn rvs 1
Chelsea 2

Jamie Holland

October still had two days remaining as Blackburn Rovers manager Sam Allardyce bemoaned his team's misfortune in failing, so valiantly, to become just the second team this season to inflict Premier League defeat upon defending champions Chelsea.

How potentially worrying, therefore, that it was hard to disagree with the main thrust of Allardyce's other post-match comment -- that only severe injury problems can realistically prevent Carlo Ancelotti from masterminding a second consecutive title.

Chelsea's victory at Ewood Park had "championship calibre" hewn throughout, like a stick of seaside rock. Outplayed for long periods, lucky in part -- notably when Peter Cech slipped and made a brilliant first-half save from his backside and, later, when Jason Roberts missed the target with only the 'keeper to beat -- and devastatingly effective when they had to be, Ancelotti's team is playing with a panache, spirit and grit unparalleled on a consistent basis in the Premier League at present.

Little wonder that Cech and his team-mates have already looked ahead to next month's fixture list when -- and we can say it, because he is too diplomatic to do so -- his team can really take a stranglehold on the league.

"Last season, the key thing was we won all those head-to-head games against the top four," said Cech. "This season will be the same, if we can win those games you increase the gap every time you win.

"We know that November and Christmas will be a tricky period. We have Manchester United, we have to go to Liverpool, we play Tottenham and Arsenal. Everyone around us really -- but if we win those games it will be a massive advantage for us."

Beating the big four was the last thing on the mind of Ancelotti as he saw his team almost swept away by a superb 20-minute spell from the home side, which featured the opening goal, a header from Benjani, his first goal since netting for Manchester City in December 2008.

But, as Allardyce noted, Blackburn failed to turn a number of chances into goals and, with a solitary devastating attack, Chelsea were level before the interval with Cech's long punt forward being helped by Florent Malouda and Didier Drogba into the path of Nicolas Anelka who equalised.

Following Roberts' miss, the stage was left for the impressive Russian Yuri Zhirkov to carve out the winner, his magnificent cross finding the head of the unmarked Ivanovic who made no mistake from six yards.

"It's important when you don't play well that you pick up points," added Cech. "That's what makes the difference. Today was a big three points for us."

Irish Independent

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