x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Chelsea back on top

Nicolas Anelka gives Chelsea manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari, the perfect birthday present with two goals against Blackburn.

Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka goes up for an aerial challenge with Blackburn's Zurab Khizanishvili.
Chelsea's Nicolas Anelka goes up for an aerial challenge with Blackburn's Zurab Khizanishvili.

BLACKBURN // Two goals from Nicolas Anelka helped Chelsea overcome a battling Blackburn Rovers at a wet Ewood Park. Freezing conditions and six hours of constant rain on the morning of this match transformed the pitch into Ewood Lake and the Blackburn manager Paul Ince would have been hoping the slippy conditions would unsettle Chelsea's foreign contingent to allow his team to snatch a positive result. He was wrong. Chelsea looked every inch a team sat on the top of the Premier League and this result now moves them back ahead of Liverpool. After just four minutes Anelka went down in the box after leaping over the onrushing goalkeeper Paul Robinson, but frantic shouts for a penalty were rightly turned down. Robinson, the former England number one, did not make contact with the French striker and referee Chris Foy was in no mood to be duped by the Chelsea player's' tumble. The visitors continued to pour forward as a John Obi Mikel header hit the post and John Terry also went close before Blackburn got their first real chance came after 22 minutes. Full-back Danny Simpson sped down the left wing and crossed a ball that eventually fell for Carlos Villanueva, who turned and struck powerfully but Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech pulled off a first class save, managing to palm the ball away at full stretch to keep the game level. The respite for Blackburn was brief as Chelsea continued to press forward and Robinson made another superb one armed block to again deny Anelka as the Londoners looked to turn possession into advantage, something they finally did just six minutes before half-time. Alex decided to test Robinson from long range and his shot simply hit Anelka and ricocheted passed a stranded Robinson. The manner of the goal was fortunate but it was perhaps justice following Chelsea's hitherto dominant yet fruitless play. Immediately following the break, Blackburn almost drew level but Chelsea again had Cech to thanks as he charged off his line to superbly deny Jason Roberts' left foot strike. The home team had re-emerged as the more compact looking side as Chelsea looked content to sit on their lead. However, Rovers did not have the class to transform their improved running and passing into anything resembling a clean cut opportunity and Anelka punished them for that on 68 minutes. Chelsea skipper Frank Lampard slid a loose ball into the path of Anelka on the edge of the box and he managed to deftly lift it over the diving Robinson to score his 10th Premier League goal of the season and effectively seal the tie. With 10 minutes left, Lampard hit the crossbar with a long-range free kick and Anelka should have scored his hat-trick but for a great block from Robinson and a third for Chelsea would not arrive, nor would a consolation for the home side. sports@thenational.ae