Wednesday 21 February 2018

Cech ensures Ancelotti breathes a little easier

Drogba 39, 67

Steve Tongue

NEVER MIND the moral high ground, which Carlo Ancelotti made clear last week when discussing his players’ sleeping arrangements, is of little interest to him.

The rarefied Premier League atmosphere four points above Manchester United is what Chelsea’s manager is keener on occupying, so he was perfectly content to have taken advantage of United’s Saturday lunchtime slip-up, even with such an uneven performance as this one. Winning two-nil away from home, the points tied up after little more than an hour, was a day’s work to delight the most pragmatic of coaches.

It was in many ways a Jose Mourinho performance; the sort of game that used to have Jose shaking his assistants’ hands five minutes before the end to celebrate a job well done, having substituted his big players long beforehand. Ancelotti will have to get used to such comparisons in the next few days before his side take on Mourinho’s Internazionale at San Siro on Wednesday. Pushed for an assessment of them and their manager, Ancelotti chose faint praise: Inter “have changed their system, changed their players, have a very good team”. Mourinho? “He won two titles.”

The Special One and his scouts studying this game will have noted some encouraging points and some disturbing ones. Against a struggling team, there was Chelsea’s failure to create many chances at all and the necessity of Petr Cech to bail them out with a couple of superb saves. On the other hand, there was, above all, Didier Drogba, who took his goals total for the season to 25 with two from classic away-team counter-attacks that began in Cech’s hands.

The first, after 39 minutes mostly dominated by Wolves, was a wonderfully flowing move from end to end along the ground, ending with Drogba sliding in at the far post after Zhirkov exchanged exquisite passes with Michael Ballack. The second came from one huge punt downfield by Cech, who had needed to be at his outstanding best to defy Adlene Guedioura and then Kevin Foley, with the score at 1-0.

Wolves (4-1-4-1): Hahnemann; Zubar, Craddock, Berra, Ward; Henry; Foley (Halford, 75), Guedioura, Jones (Ebanks- Blake, 75), Jarvis (Mujanji Bia, 75); Doyle. Substitutes not used: Elokobi, Milijas, Hennessey (gk), Vokes.

Chelsea (4-1-3-2): Cech; Ferreira, Ivanovic, Terry, Zhirkov (Bruma, 60); Mikel; Ballack, Malouda, J Cole; Anelka, Drogba. Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Sturridge, Kalou, Borini, Kakuta, Matic.

Booked: Chelsea Ballack.

Referee: K Friend (Leicestershire).

Man of the match: Cech.

Attendance: 28,978.

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