Premier League - Chelsea grind out win
Chelsea won only their second Premier League game in 10 as second-half set-pieces helped them to a 2-0 victory at home to Blackburn Rovers.
Florent Malouda was the architect with his pin-point corners, the first resulting in a goal for Branislav Ivanovic and the second helping Nicolas Anelka break a nine-game goalless streak that ran concurrently with Chelsea’s slump.
Chelsea’s worst run of league form for a decade saw them lose to Wolves last time out, but they were coming off the back of a 7-0 Cup win over Ipswich so - for the most part - were the controlling force.
Still, in the first half it was not saying much, Ramires’s rising drive off the bar on two minutes the only action of note as Rovers parked the bus in front of their goal for the first half hour.
Afterwards it opened up a touch as, with Rovers midfielder David Dunn off injured, the hosts were able to find more killer passes in midfield.
Didier Drogba was denied a free run at goal by a wonderful Gael Givet tackle, Anelka fired just wide after cutting in from the right flank and Frank Lampard headed over after Jose Bosingwa’s excellent cross capped off a slick passing move.
For their part Rovers - who had left under-fire forward El-Hadji Diouf as an unused substitute - managed one effort that truly tested Petr Cech when the Chelsea defence inexplicably parted for David Hoilett, whose low drive was well-saved by the Czech goalkeeper.
The best chance fell three minutes before the break and it fell to Chelsea as Anelka, meeting a low Bosingwa cross on the run, flicked an inventive finish over Paul Robinson but off the angle of post and bar.
Chelsea continued to apply the pressure in the second half, Anelka again shooting just wide, this time beyond the far post from a tight angle on the right.
Rovers occasionally threatened, with Mame Biram Diouf off target after Ryan Nelsen and Ivanovic collided at a corner, but the hosts took a deserved if unstylish lead just before the hour mark.
Malouda’s left-wing corner was flicked on by John Terry and Morten Gamst Pedersen’s failed attempt to clear allowed Ivanovic to pick the ball up on the right: with Nelsen, Michel Salgado and Robinson in his way, the Serbia defender squeezed out a low finish that trickled past the defenders and in off the keeper’s hand.
Despite the presence of new re-signing Roque Santa Cruz, Rovers were barely able to cross halfway as Chelsea went close through Anelka, Terry and Lampard.
Santa Cruz, on as a half-time sub for Nikola Kalinic, looked well short of match-sharpness and barely got a touch as Blackburn struggled to leave their own half.
Any nerves Chelsea were softened with a quarter of an hour left as, after Robinson spared Chris Samba’s blushes following a dreadful backpass into Drogba’s path, the corner that followed was met by a powerful Ivanovic header that Anelka flicked over the line.
Blackburn had all-but given up the ghost as Chelsea went through the motions, tentatively seeking a third but content with the win.