Chelsea braved Lancashire’s finest weather to come away from Ewood Park with a 2-0 win, courtesy of a double from Nicolas Anelka in the torrential rain. Only a blinder from Paul Robinson prevented the scoreline from being more, though two Petr Cech saves were vitally important in the overall context of the match. For Anelka, his 10th and 11th goals in all competitions were enough to send him to the top of the English Premier League goalscorers charts with nine goals, whilst the football on display in trying conditions was of great encouragement, particularly after the Roma debacle in midweek.
On Scolari’s 60th birthday he was forced into one change, Salomon Kalou coming in for Joe Cole, who like Didier Drogba didn’t make the trip north. From as early as the fourth minute, Anelka looked razor sharp, pouncing on a stray backpass from Keith Andrews and rounding Paul Robinson. Anelka appeared to have been brought down by the England goalkeeper, however referee Chris Foy declined to give the penalty, nor the impending red card, and play continued.
Robinson then made three saves to keep his side in the hunt. The first was to push away Anelka’s effort, whilst the second and third were with his legs, initially to deny Anelka’s header from a Bosingwa cross and then to keep out a back post Mikel header, with help from the post.
The Blackburn keeper was in fantastic form, and in the 20th minute made another superb stop to keep out Lampard’s fizzing, skidding long range effort. Then, from a Blackburn counter attack, Petr Cech was forced into a truly magnificent save, deny Villanueva after the Blackburn attacker found himself free at the back post. However, this save was usurped as the best of the match minutes later by Robinson. Anelka turned onto his left foot inside the penalty area, before unleashing a stinging effort towards the bottom corner. Robinson flung himself at it, showing astonishing reactions to reach the shot with his left hand and turn it away. Both keepers had excelled themselves with their handling and their saves, considering the conditions.
But even the brilliance of Robinson couldn’t prevent Chelsea’s opening goal. In the 38th minute, Bosingwa lets fly from 40 yards and with Robinson wrong footed, Anelka deflects the ball off his thigh. It trickles through the standing water and over the line to give Chelsea the lead. Vince Grella was forced off with injury just before half time, where Chelsea took their 1-0 lead to the dressing rooms.
At half time, Matt Derbyshire replaced Keith Andrews as Paul Ince gambled. It paid dividends as Blackburn looked far more accomplished than the side that was completely overrun in the opening stanza. Cech made another fantastic save, after both Alex and Terry were wrong footed by Jason Roberts’ turn on the edge of the area. The man in orange was quick to race off his line and block the shot.
Kalou was feeling the effects of a collision with the advertising hoardings and was thus replaced by the cult hero Juliano Belletti. Within minutes of his introduction, Chelsea took an unassailable 2-0 lead. Lampard took advantage of some sloppy defending on the edge of the Blackburn box, to burst forward. Anelka was on hand to race to the ball as it came loose, expertly dinking the ball over the onrushing Robinson to take himself to the top of the goalscorers charts and Chelsea back to the top of the table.
With 13 minutes remaining Robbie Fowler, one of the great finishers of the modern game, was introduced in place of Jason Roberts. However, the game closed with two more Chelsea efforts, both bringing out the best in Robinson.
Lampard drove a free kick from 30 yards towards goal, that Robinson had to arch back and tip onto the cross bar, and out for a corner. Then, Anelka was played in by Lampard, but he spurned the chance for consecutive Premier League hattricks, as Robinson saved brilliantly at his feet.
Victory though was sweet for Chelsea, on a day where football was still played beautifully, despite the standing water all over the pitch and the torrential rain that poured throughout the first half. With this win, we equal our own record of nine consecutive away league victories and head back to the top of the table after Liverpool’s win against West Bromwich Albion. It all equates to a very happy birthday for Felipe Scolari, with Burnley next up.
Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry (c), Bridge; Mikel; Kalou (Belletti 61), Deco (Ferreira 90+1), Lampard, Malouda; Anelka.
Blackburn (4-2-3-1): Robinson; Simpson, Khizanishvili, Nelsen (c), Olsson; Grella, Mokoena 44), Warnock; Villanueva, Andrews (Derbyshire h-t), Pedersen; Roberts (Fowler 77).
Referee Chris Foy.