On a day when Blackburn’s new owners were in attendance, Chelsea showed them what life is like for Rovers gas the Blues collected victory 2-1 at Ewood Park. A first half goal from Nicolas Anelka and a late header from Branislav Ivanovic kept the London team at the top of the table and five points clear of their rivals.
With the new Indian owners in the stands, Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce pu his proverbial bus in the garage and had his team playing organised, yet attacking against the Premier League leaders.
It was Chelsea that fired the first chance of the match six minutes in when Ivanovic’s cross from the right just evaded the head of the leaping Didier Drogba and the Ivorian could only nod wide.
However, it proved to be the best passage of play for the surprisingly lethargic Blues, who were outplayed by a Blackburn side intent on proving itself in front of the new ownership group. Manchester United loanee Mame Biram Diouf nearly struck first for the home side, attempting to lob Petr Cech from just inside the area. The big Chelsea keeper stumbled, but recovered to palm the ball wide of the post.
Rovers got their reward in the 21st minute when an El-Hadji Diouf cross evaded the heads of both John Terry and the returning Alex, finding Benjani unmarked and he headed home from close range to send Blackburn into the lead.
That goal seemed to strengthen the visitors and Chelsea began to press with more intent. Michael Essien produced a clever moment of improvisation as he hit a shot from outside of his boot that just missed the right post.
The equaliser came just seconds later through a great passage of play as Florent Malouda played a wonderful cross to the far post, which Drogba headed down for Anelka to fire home over the keeper.
Blackburn made changes at the break, removing goal scorer Benjani for Jason Roberts and it was clear early on that Blackburn were taking a more conservative approach. However, they continued to threaten on the counter attack when an outstretched Mame Diouf nearly converted a free kick in the 61st minute from Morgan Gamst Pedersen.
Daniel Sturridge was introduced in the 71st minute to inject some much needed life into the attack and his impact was nearly felt immediately. Sturridge made a jinking run, cutting in from the right to his favored left foot, and his shot was fired just wide of Paul Robinson’s goal.
Blackburn countered moments later, with substitute Roberts cutting inside of Ivanovic, only to draw the ire of Allardyce by screwing his one on one effort wide of the target.
Blackburn were punished for their profligacy in front of goal in the second half when Ivanovic grabbed the winner. The Serbian showed why clinical finishing is important as Yuri Zhirkov evaded two Blackburn defenders down the left and teased a cross to the far post where Ivanovic met the ball unmarked.
With that result, Chelsea again show the mettle of champions by winning when they were clearly not at their best. Greater challenges are in the headlights with Spartak Moscow visiting London midweek, followed by a trip to Anfield next Sunday.