Blackburn recovered from an early Didier Drogba goal to earn a well deserved point, bringing the title race closer then what many would have ever expected.
With stand in Goal Keepers at either end, Phil Jones was given a starting debut, a vote of confidence by Sam Allardyce in the 18 year old, given the role of pairing up with Samba to keep out Drogba and Anelka. David Dunn was restored to midfield, dropping in just behind Nikola Kalinic.
Blackburn Rovers: Jason Brown, Martin Olsson, Chris Samba, Phil Jones, Michel Salgado, Marten Gamst Pedersen, Steven Nzonzi, Keith Andrews, El-Hadji Diouf, David Dunn, Nikola Kalinic
Subs: Mark Bunn, Lars Jacobsen, Jason Roberts, Junior Hoillett, Amine Linganzi, Pascal Chimbonda, Brett Emerton
Rovers started of the brighter of the two squads. Neat play in the midfield found Gamst Pedersen free out wide, however he could not cut the ball to the oncoming attackers. Chelsea then showed Rovers how its done. Anelka took his man on out wide, then cut the ball back into the box. Man of the Moment Didier Drogba managed to slot the ball through Salgado’s legs, blindsiding Brown who could not reach the left footed strike. 1-0 Chelsea, not the start Sam Allardyce would have wanted.
Chelsea continued to attack down the flanks, with Malouda and Anelka turning it on, looking for the killer ball for Drogba, or the oncoming pressure provided by Lampard. Blackburn did have a few early chances, and were taking the game to Chelsea. Nikola Kalinic was his persistent self, pressuring the Chelsea defence, striking a half volley just over Turnbull’s goal. Gamst Pedersen tried his luck with a free kick from 25 yards, though Turnbull was up to the task, parrying for a corner.
Alex was next up to have a dig for Chelsea. After a miss timed clearance, the ball popped up to the wingback, who blasted his volley towards goal. A desperate Olsson launched himself at the ball, blocking it away. Blackburn started to take control of the game, whilst Chelsea resorted to some long ball football. Wait, did I just say that?…..
Debutant Phil Jones brought the crowd to their feet after 3 ball and all tackles within seconds of each other. Jones launched himself to intercept a delicate through ball, then pounced at Lampard who thought he had an easy collection, before sliding in for a third time to ensure Blackburn maintained possesion. Salgado was also holding his own out wide, shutting down Malouda on several occasions.
Chelsea had a late chance to grab a second before the break, Malouda pouncing on a loose ball on the edge of the box, though his powerful strike was well saved by Brown. A string of corners followed, but to no avail.
Half Time Blackburn 0 Chelsea 1
The rain started coming down, but Blackburn were hungry. Within 3 minutes of the restart, Blackburn almost had the equaliser. 18 of the Blackburn 31 goals this season were from set pieces, and it was no surprise that it almost became 19. Gamst Pedersen’s long throw in was flicked on by Samba over Turnbull. Fortunately for the stand in keeper, Ferriera was on the line to clear.
Frank Lampard decided to try his luck from distance, and boy he came close. Picking the ball up from 35 yards out, Lampard took a touch and struck a venomous swerving shot, drifitng just wide of Brown’s far post. Blackburn made there first change of the night, David Dunn taking a well earned rest, making way for Brett Emerton.
Minutes later, another substitution, though the Ewood Faithful were filthy, with Nikola Kalinic making way for Jason Roberts. Im sure the fans weren’t directing this at Roberts, rather the fact that they wanted 2 up front instead of a like for like change.
The boo’s turned to celebrations within minutes. A short throw in found the impressive Michel Salgado who was playing in an advanced role. Salgado put in a delightful cross to the far post. El Hadji Diouf, who apart from his continuous ranting all game, was barely noticeable, however, he managed to out position Ferriera, winning the aerial battle and heading into the bottom corner of the net. 1-1.
Chelsea stepped up their game, knowing all but 3 points would be a failure. However, Blackburn were up to the task. A short taken corner by Deco found Drogba, who struck a first time volley. Brown made a stunning reflex save to prevent the Ivorian international picking up a brace. Chelsea continued to pressure the Rovers defence, but Samba, Jones and co were relentless, clearing away at every opportunity.
Nzonzi came of with minutes to go with cramp, Hoillet making a cameo appearance. After 5 long minutes of injury time, the final whistle went, Blackburn picking up a valuable point, whilst Chelsea, dropping 2 very important points
Jason Brown 7.5
Caught off balance for Drogba’s early goal, but did make a couple of important saves to deny Malouda and Drogba
Michel Salgado 8.5
Best game all season, and what a time to perform. Held his own out wide, made several important interceptions, and a brilliant cross for the goal
Chris Samba 8.5
Superb in defence. Won every aerial challenge, something that he must do with his stature. Got stuck in, talked a lot, directed Phil Jones around the paddock and almost nicked a goal of his own
Phil Jones 9
Couldnt ask for a better debut. Superb performance and really looks the goods. Imagine after a few more games up his belt. Well in!
Martin Olsson 7
A touch sloppy from Martin today. Defended well, but lost the ball a few too many times on the attack. Heck, who cares, he defended well and thats what a left back is for!
Keith Andrews 7
Good job by Mr Fix It (best name i could come up for him). Worked hard all game in central midfield, released the ball early
Steven Nzonzi 8
Very solid in midfield. Up against Lampard and co, the young man stood up well, winning most of the 50 50 challenges, and releasing out wide early
David Dunn 7.5
Good to see Dunny back. A few tricky runs ended in a free kick, would of liked him to pull the trigger a few more times, all in all, a good 60 minutes
Morten Gamst Pedersen 7
Solid game from Gamst. A few wayward attempts on goals, but really did work hard. Ran the 90 minutes, a few good interceptions and switch of play
El Hadji Diouf…..
Would have been a 5, but il give him a 7 after the goal. Really cant stand the ranting and raving on, though does bring a smile to my face at 5am…..Well positioned for the goal, and well taken.
Nikola Kalinic 7.5
Toiled hard with no reward, must be hard for the young lad. Would of been good for him to play with Roberts towards the end, just wasnt to be
Brett Emerton 6
30 minutes for Brett, a few sloppy touches, but a few solid interceptions and counter attack
Jason Roberts 7
Actually looked good! Held the ball up well, a few very delicate turns, cant complain!
No time to impress