EPL: Relief for Ancelotti as Chelsea beat Blackburn

Posted on by SoccerPunter

Nicolas Anelka and Branislav Ivanovic struck second-half goals that secured Chelsea’s 2-0 victory over Blackburn on Saturday and eased the pressure on Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti.

Ancelotti’s side were by no means at their best, but having won just one of their previous nine league games, it was vital they claimed victory to avoid losing more ground in the battle to finish in the top four.

There was huge relief around Stamford Bridge as first Ivanovic and then Anelka took advantage of Blackburn’s failure to deal with Chelsea corners.

While a title challenge remains a distance hope, Ancelotti will be relieved to see Chelsea move back into fourth place ahead of fifth placed Tottenham’s game against leaders Manchester United on Sunday.

Ancelotti had indicated before the game he was considering making changes, making it clear that his patience with some of his under-performing players was beginning to wear thin.

As it was Michael Essien, Didier Drogba and Florent Malouda, the three players whose positions were believed to be under threat, started as the Chelsea manager kept faith with the old guard.

And it appeared that faith would be justified as the home side made a positive start, immediately forcing Blackburn backwards and creating a clear chance inside the opening two minutes.

Drogba’s forward run won a corner and when Blackburn’s David Hoilett failed to react quickly enough to Frank Lampard’s ball, Ramires fired a volley against the crossbar.

Essien should have done better than head wide from another Lampard cross while Drogba’s hopeful long range shot was a sign of Chelsea’s growing impatience.

The pace of Hoilett threatened to cause problems for the home side. And it was the Rovers midfielder who came closest to giving the visitors a shock lead when he surged forward from the halfway and easily worked his way past Ivanovic before firing his 34th minute shot too close to Petr Cech.

The scare lifted Chelsea and three minutes before the break they hit the woodwork for a second time when Anelka got in front of his marker at the near post to flick Jose Bosingwa’s right wing cross against the bar.

Ancelotti resisted the temptation to make changes at the break but Blackburn manager Steve Kean introduced Roque Santa Cruz in place of the ineffective Niko Kalinic for the Paraguayan’s first appearance since returning to Ewood Park on loan from Manchester City.

The switch appeared to strengthen Blackburn’s forward options but Chelsea quickly took control again with Anelka coming close with a right-footed snapshot.

Ivanovic eased the home nerves when he turned home from close range in the 57th minute.

Once again, Blackburn were troubled by a Chelsea corner with Terry flicking on Malouda’s cross and Ivanovic latching onto the loose ball.

Terry then came close to adding a second when he diverted Lampard’s shot narrowly wide.

Blackburn were unable to find a response, even after the introduction of Jason Roberts to partner Santa Cruz.

And the home side made the game safe when Blackburn again failed to defend a set-piece.

Drogba won a corner after seeing his 76th minute shot saved by Paul Robinson and Ivanovic this time turned provider, heading down for Anelka to flick home for his first league goal since the trip to Blackburn in October.

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