COLE STUNNER RATTLES ROVERS

By Alan McKeown
Dec 24th, 2007

Chelsea resumed winning ways after a first half stunner from Joe Cole secured all three points at Ewood Park, and Rovers miserable form continues.

Blackburn had started the early part of the game really well and put the blues under extreme pressure in the early stages of the first half, but only for a quick Chelsea counter attack Chelsea caught rovers open at the back with Joe Cole connecting on to a superb pass from Kalou and placed the ball into the top left hand corner of the net passed a helpless Brad Friedel.

The woodwork was hit three times in the first half and the chances kept coming by a Blackburn side as they continued to push forward in the second half in search for an equaliser. Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech had to be substituted after he collapsed in agony after picking up an injury, but third choice replacement goalkeeper Hilario pulled off a brilliant save to deny Roque Santa Cruz a fourth goal in three games, and keep Chelsea in reaching distance of Arsenal and Manchester United going into a busy Christmas period.

Blackburn have now only won one of there last eight games and Mark Hughes team will need to pick up some valuable points over the Christmas period if Blackburn are to push for a European place in the second part of the season.

For the opening quarter of the game Blackburn looked like a top six side and not a team that had only won one game in the last eight, Blackburn took the game to Chelsea and should have opened the score sheet, but when the luck is not in your favour as for Blackburn the balls rattled the woodwork to the frustration of the Blackburn fans, players and manager.

Then Blackburn’s bad luck continued as Morten Gamst Pedersen swung in a corner into the six yard box past the far post, and with no Rovers player in sign to put a boot on to the loose ball. Prior to that Ricardo Carvalho had made a crucial block, who was starting his first game since early November, Carvalho threw his body at a shot hit by Rovers striker Roque Santa Cruz.

It was an excellent start from Blackburn, with David Bentley hit a lovely shot from the edge of the 18 yard box which touched the top of the bar and it had Cech in the Chelsea goal scrambling back to deal with Bentley’s attempt.

Bentley then went even closer moments later with a free kick from the left which come off the top of the bar after Bentley himself had been up ended by a clumsy tackle by Chelsea’s Brazilian central defender Alex who rightly received a yellow card for his offence with no complaints.

Blackburn continued to press for the opening goal and again a superb ball from Bentley to Santa Cruz and the Rovers in form striker fired a angled drive just wide of the right hand post Then the inevitable happened Rovers has wasted so many chances and Chelsea made them pay and took the lead in the 22nd minute.

Chelsea should have taken the lead a minute earlier only for a shot on the turn from Shevchenko from eight yards really should have produced the game’s opening goal, only for his shot to fly high and wide to the frustration of the Chelsea star who has only got two league goals in the first half of the season.

Rovers made a terrible clearance out of defence and the loose ball was picked up by Chelsea on the halfway line, and within a matter of seconds Kalou played a sublime cross field pass into a clear path for midfielder Joe Cole to run onto and place a superb 18 yard finish into the top left hand corner of the net, past the on rushing Brad Friedel, and to the delight of the traveling Chelsea fans behind the goal.

Blackburn then incredibly struck the bar again, this time from a brilliant save from Petr Cech. From a short free kick, Bentley hit a rocket from around 30 yards straight into the Chelsea wall, Santa Cruz picked up the loose ball and played a short pass to Rovers Midfielder Steven Reid from 15 yards, and only for Cech’s trailing arm pushed the ball on to the bar and yet again to the frustration of the Rovers faithful.

Blackburn were not the only team to strike the woodwork in the game, and within three minutes Lampard followed suit and with all of Ewood Park to run into hit a peach of a shot from 20 yards only to be denied by a fingertips of Friedel touching the Chelsea Captains effort on to the right hand post and most importantly denying Lampard a landmark 100th goal for Chelsea.

There was still plenty of time in the second half for Blackburn to push for the equaliser and Zurab Khizanisvili who was starting his first game this season and was covering for the absence for the suspended Christopher Samba, shaved the top of the bar with a back flick header from another Bentley in swinging free kick and yet again Rovers were so close but yet so far away from an equalising goal.

Despite all the chances Blackburn had, and failed to convert one when it mattered most after Chelsea goalkeeper Cech received treatment for in the early stages of the second half for a hip injury. The Chelsea first choice goalkeeper limped off on the hour mark after he had struggled on for 10 minutes prior, before then signaling to the Chelsea bench that he needs to be substituted and without really being tested for the hour he was on the pitch.

Cech withdrawal gave Portuguese Hilario his first start this season, and within five minutes he was a villain and a hero, firstly he was nowhere near a Bentley corner and was fortunate to see a downward header from Santa Cruz go a just wide of the left hand post, Hilario then rectified his earlier error with a fantastic save low down from a Santa Cruz header knocking it around the post after he connected on to a left wing cross from Bentley.

Blackburn: (4-2-3-1): Friedel, Emerton, Khizanishvili, Nelson (c), Warnock, Tugay (Roberts 72), Reid, Dunn, Bentley, Pedersen, Santa Cruz.
Booked: Dunn 37.

Chelsea: (4-3-3): Cech, (Hilario 63), Ferreira, Alex, Carvalho, A Cole, Essien, Mikel, Makelele, Lampard (c), Kalou, Shevchenko (Wright-Phillips 66), J Cole (Pizarro 81). Scorer: J Cole 22.
Booked: Alex 10, Carvalho 78.

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