LUCKY SEVEN FOR GRANT
The champagne football continued for Avram Grant’s side as they blasted Wigan out of the water early, before holding on comfortably to win 2-0. Frank Lampard’s fourth goal of the week, plus an absolute stunner from Juliano Belletti, sealed Chelsea’s seventh win in a row, and a fifth consecutive Premiership clean sheet.
After starting with a 4-4-2 formation against Leicester City in midweek, Chelsea reverted back to a 4-3-3 for this match. Wayne Bridge made his first league start of the season at left back, a decision made easier by the untimely injury to Paulo Ferreira. Belletti therefore, continued at right back. Mikel, Essien and Lampard were the chosen midfield trio, but there was a start for Shaun Wright-Phillips in the attack, with Florent Malouda on the other side of Didier Drogba.
For Wigan, Marcus Bent was the sole striker in a 4-5-1 formation, with Dutch international Denny Landzaat in midfield. Former Chelsea favourite, right back Mario Melchiot, captained Wigan.
It only took Chelsea 11 minutes to notch yet another goal, and it was the man of the moment Frank Lampard, who was Johnny-on-the-spot once more. Belletti’s ball to Drogba was touched on to Shaun Wright-Phillips, and with two neat touches he left the Wigan defenders trailing. His pass along the ground was inch perfect, as it bypassed Drogba and the entire Wigan defence, leaving Lampard free to tuck the ball past Chris Kirkland with ease. Such was the perfect weight behind Wright-Phillips’ pass, Lampard didn’t even have to break stride to reach cross. Just like that, Chelsea were in front.
Landzaat tried his luck from a 30 yard free kick, on 13 minutes, but his effort was comfortably taken by Chelsea’s goalkeeper Petr Čech. Five minutes later, Chelsea had scored again.
Wright-Phillips once more played an integral role, acrobatically keeping Belletti’s pass in play, just inside the Chelsea half. The Brazilian fullback recovered, and accelerated into the Wigan half, and with a shimmy beat Kevin Kilbane. Decoy runs from Drogba and Essien distracted the Latics defenders, and with neither centre back willing to break the line, Belletti had a free run at goal. From 25 yards out, he hit an absolute screamer with the outside of his right foot, to cap off a truly outstanding piece of individual attacking play. His celebration somewhat understated the true quality of the goal, his first for Chelsea. However, he did manage to crack a smile once swamped by his appreciative teammates, as they celebrated another goal of the season contender.
Shaun Wright-Phillips, starting for the first time under Avram Grant, was taking full advantage of his opportunity. After stealing possession near the halfway line, some neat footwork took him past the hapless Kilbane, opening up space through the middle. He raced towards goal, but his eventual strike from 25 yards was straight at Kirkland. Just before half time, Drogba’s free kick beat goalkeeper Kirkland, but it failed to dip below the crossbar. At half time, Chelsea had dominated and scored twice, but there was every possibility of adding to the tally after the interval.
To their credit though, Wigan fought back in the second half, and only some brilliant defending from Chelsea denied them a goal. Firstly, Landzaat’s shot from the edge of the area was blocked by Ricardo Carvalho, desperately diving in. Secondly, Michael Brown unleashed a left footed shot from a similar position, only for an athletic Alex to block the strike, with Čech flying across behind him.
With 27 minutes remaining, more outstanding play from Wright-Phillips nearly created a third for the Blues. After tricking and teasing Kilbane once more, he spotted Lampard’s run into the box and with a deft flick of the right boot, split the Wigan defenders in front of him. Lampard, in attempting to help the ball into the far corner, couldn’t generate enough power to beat Kirkland.
Scharner’s shot caused a momentary worry for Čech, but the rest of the game featured the entries of Salomon Kalou and Steve Sidwell for Chelsea, and Josip Skoko for Wigan. Man of the hour, Andriy Shevchenko, remained an unused substitute.
Normal service is resumed in SW6; Chelsea’s run of wins extended to seven, whilst our skipper-less defence is as miserly as ever. With the goals flowing, and the football scintillating, Avram Grant’s Chelsea are heading back to the very top and with football like this, how could anyone complain?
Chelsea (4-3-3): Čech; Belletti, Alex, Carvalho, Bridge; Mikel, Essien (Sidwell 76), Lampard (c); Wright-Phillips, Drogba (Kalou 75), Malouda.
Wigan (4-5-1): Kirkland; Bramble, Melchiot (c), Granqvist, Kilbane; Valencia, Brown (Skoko 85), Landzaat (Sibierski 82), Scharner, Koumas; Bent.
Referee: Steve Bennett