Chelsea attempts to bounce back from the 2-0 defeat at Villa Park were stalled by Mark Hughes’ stubborn Blackburn side, who managed to thwart the Blues, holding them to a 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge.

Ricardo Carvalho was once more deemed unable to play through to injury, whilst our two most reliable goal scorers, Frank Lampard and Didier Drogba were also out. Belletti and Alex again started in defence and Steve Sidwell returned to the midfield for the first time since the Reading game, partnering Michael Essien. Joe Cole started for the first time this season wide left of the 4-4-2, likewise Andriy Shevchenko up front alongside Salomon Kalou.

Blackburn started with a dangerous front two of Roque Santa Cruz and former Porto attacker Benni McCarthy. David Bentley lined up on the right side of midfield, with Pedersen on the left; Ryan Nelsen skippered the side at centre back.

The Chelsea players wore black armbands out of respect for former manager Ian Porterfield, who died early last week, whilst a minute’s applause was held before kick off. For the first twenty minutes or so the game was scrappy, with fouls a plenty and no real attacking opportunities.

On 26 minutes the first attacking play of any real note came from the team in blue. Joe Cole showed a dash of pace through the middle, before releasing Michael Essien, whose rasping 25 yard drive was brilliantly saved by the Blackburn goalkeeper Brad Friedel.

Four minutes later, Joe Cole and Essien combined again, this time setting up Shevchenko, but the Ukrainian- who scored in midweek for the national team- took a heavy second touch that allowed Friedel to smother low. Cole, eager to impress, was the next to work the big American keeper, curling a shot straight at him five minutes before half time.

At the interval, the scores were level, Chelsea though were the better side despite lacking the midfield impetus of Lampard and the strength up front of Drogba. Čech had been a spectator, whilst Alex and John Terry dealt comfortably with the intermittent Blackburn attacks.

Ten minutes into the second half, Mourinho made a double swap, replacing Steve Sidwell- who’d look a bit out of his depth- with John Obi Mikel, and replacing the subdued Shaun Wright-Phillips with Florent Malouda.

Just two minutes after the changes, Chelsea had a goal ruled out for a non-existent offside. The energetic Juliano Belletti crossed low into the penalty box, where the ball was poked home by Kalou. However, Chelsea’s celebrations were ended by the linesman, who had flagged for offside, despite Kalou being clearly onside as the ball was played into the box.

Jason Roberts was called into action by Blackburn, as he came off the bench to replace McCarthy, who had been quiet up front. Joe Cole and Belletti were booked within a minute of one another not long after that, and in the 80th minute, Čech made his first save of the match, tipping over a shot from Robbie Savage.

In the 84th minute, Shevchenko wasted another chance, Friedel saving after a cross from Malouda, but Samba’s head connected with Shevchenko’s boot, leading to a lengthy break as he was attended to behind the goal. He was eventually carried off in a neck brace to applause from the crowd and was replaced by Andre Ooijer. Tal Ben-Haim went on for Ashley Cole with three minutes remaining.

Seven minutes of injury time was added on after the 90, in which John Terry managed to find space to head over the crossbar. At fulltime though, Blackburn had managed to hold on for a point scarcely deserved, as it was Chelsea that had pushed the Lancashire side back into their own half for much of the game, and forced quality saves from the goalkeeper.

The draw leaves us two points off the top of the table, and with plenty of work to do following the international break. However, our focus switches to Europe, where the Champions League campaign kicks off against Rosenborg this week, before our match against the Premiership champions Manchester United at Old Trafford on Sunday. The battles on the domestic and European front are truly starting to begin.

Chelsea (4-4-2) Čech; Belletti, Alex, Terry (c), A Cole (Ben-Haim 87); Wright-Phillips (Malouda 55), Sidwell (Mikel 55), Essien, J Cole; Kalou, Shevchenko.

Blackburn (4-4-2) Friedel; Emerton, Samba (Ooijer 90), Nelsen (c), Warnock; Bentley, Savage, Dunn, Pedersen; Santa Cruz, McCarthy (Roberts 67).

Referee Howard Webb
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