x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Chelsea fail to convince against Blackburn

Carlo Ancelotti remained downbeat about Chelsea's hopes of retaining their Premier League title, despite a 2-0 victory against Blackburn.

LONDON // Carlo Ancelotti's appraisal of Chelsea's title chances was as unconvincing as this apparent return to form.

When asked whether the team had it in them to retain the Premier League trophy after just two wins in 11 league games, Ancelotti was distinctly downbeat.

"We will try but the gap at the top is difficult and it won't be easy to get back right up there ," Ancelotti said with the conviction of a condemned man.

While it looks as though Ancelotti will now survive the sack in the short term, it would seem that only winning the Champions League can save his job in the summer, given what seems to have become a breakdown in relations with Roman Abramovich, the club's billionaire owner.

Success in Europe remains a possibility - but not the way Chelsea continue to play. Yes, this was a win which put them back in touch at the top of the Premier League, but there was precious little passion, and even less panache.

Chelsea were just fortunate they came up against a Blackburn Rovers side devoid of any attacking invention or desire.

Mind you, Chelsea were pretty dire in that department, too. It said much that their two most effective attackers were John Terry and Branislav Ivanovic, their centre-backs.

Ancelotti's 4-1-2-3 system has become too static for the Premier League and a well-drilled Blackburn found it comfortable to contain Chelsea. Indeed they looked set to grind out a goalless draw, but a lack of concentration on two set pieces handed Chelsea the victory.

Terry rose to head a 67th-minute Florent Malouda corner across the face of goal. As Blackburn's defenders dithered with the loose ball, Ivanovic controlled, turned and rammed home a shot from close range.

Nine minutes later it was Ivanovic who headed powerfully from another Malouda corner and Nicolas Anelka diverted it past Paul Robinson from point-blank range to make it 2-0 to Chelsea.

Ancelotti tried to suggest Chelsea have now turned the corner. "Our difficult period went on for too long but I think now we are starting to play better and look towards the future and believe we can get the right results again," he said. It sounded like a hollow promise.

As for Blackburn, they could yet get sucked into the relegation scrap if they continue to play with such a lack of ambition. "We're disappointed because normally we're very, very good at defending set plays," said manager Steve Kean.

sports@thenational.ae