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Chelsea ended their league campaign on a high with a 2-1 victory against Blackburn Rovers. First-half goals from John Terry and Raul Meireles, both suspended for next week’s Champions League Final in Munich, proved enough to beat the relegated Rovers.
Roberto di Matteo selected a starting eleven which could well see eleven changes made from it in Germany on Saturday, with fringe players such as Ross Turnbull, Sam Hutchinson, Romelu Lukaku and Ryan Bertrand all starting, along with the quartet that are suspended next weekend.
Both teams had nothing to play for with regards to their final league position although Chelsea will welcome the win ahead of Munich. Bayern go into that match on the back of a 2-5 drubbing in the German Cup Final.
It was Blackburn who started the better, forcing Turnbull into a fine save after only five minutes when Jason Lowe’s shot was deflected dangerously towards goal. Lukaku then drew the best out of Rovers debutant keeper Jake Kean twice in quick succession, both following good work from Daniel Sturridge. And it was the giant Belgian forward who helped make the opener goal after half an hour, crossing well from the right for a towering John Terry to head expertly home, the centre-back having continued a run from deep.
Chelsea’s advantage was doubled almost instantly. This time Michael Essien was the provider, beating a flurry of players before being felled in the box. The ball ran loose to Meireles and he prodded into the corner from the edge of the box giving referee Lee Mason no need to signal for a penalty.
A third might have been added before the break but wonderful play from the ever-dangerous Lukaku was not rewarded by Ramires, whose showboating efforts to walk the ball into the net didn’t quite pay off. Before the break one player who might feature in Munich, Florent Malouda, was taken off as a precaution and replaced by Paulo Ferreira, with Bertrand pushing up to a more advanced role.
Sturridge and Lukaku were both off-target with decent efforts at the start of the second half as Chelsea sought to add to their advantage. Didier Drogba was brought in for Lukaku and received a rapturous reception from the home supporters in what could possibly be his last appearance at Stamford Bridge.
Rovers then showed signs of life – first Josh Morris shot tamely at Turnbull when through on goal, before Scott Dann headed goalwards from a corner, with Yakubu on hand to nod the ball in from close range for his seventeenth league goal of the season.
Chelsea nearly restored their two-goal advantage instantly when Kean raced off his line but couldn’t clear fully. Ramires’ ensuing lob was not quite as accurate as that one in the Nou Camp, hitting the bar and dropping into Kean’s grateful arms. The Chelsea players’ player of the season could only smile ruefully.
Junior Hoilett, surely a certainty to leave Rovers this summer, then fizzed a shot over after a darting run. Sturridge had a deflected shot well saved by Kean before the Englishman inexplicably chested Drogba’s superb cross wide with the goal gaping. It was the last action of the league campaign before the customary lap of honour from the youth team and the first eleven, both FA Cup winners. Rarely will the Blues play two consecutive games of such differing importance, but after this meaningless affair comes the biggest game in club football, the Champions League Final. Munich awaits.