Blues Battle To Boro Win  (Sky Sports)

Chelsea 1 Middlesbrough 0

Ricardo CarvalhoChelsea kept up their pursuit of Manchester United with a far from convincing 1-0 win over Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge.

Ricardo Carvalho's early goal proved to be enough for Avram Grant's men after a below-par display against Gareth Southgate's battling visitors.

Chelsea were far from their best and rode their luck in the second half as Boro hit the woodwork three times, with Afonso Alves twice being denied.

The win lifts Chelsea back above Arsenal into second spot in the table, five points behind leaders United.

There was a nervous moment for the Boro fans early on when goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer fumbled Didier Drogba's 25-yarder but David Wheater was there to clear.

A Chelsea opener was only seconds away, however, and came from the fifth-minute free-kick that resulted from Gary O'Neil's challenge on Michael Ballack on the left touchline.


Bridge floated it into a crowded penalty box where Ricardo Carvalho rose the highest to head past Schwarzer - despite the fact the defender was beyond the penalty spot as he did so.

Boro were then back under pressure at the other end and Drogba lost his marker to plant a near-post header just wide from Salomon Kalou's corner.

Stewart Downing was the next visitor to have a go from range but Carlo Cudicini in the home goal was able to dive to smother his low drive.

Cole burst through the middle but Taylor had tracked him all the way and made a fine block but when Boateng impeded Kalou on the run Drogba saw his free-kick deflected just wide for a corner.

Drogba could only head that away from goal but when Cole retrieved and sent it back into the danger zone the Ivorian should have done better than plant a free header over.

Wheater impeded Kalou on the edge of the Boro box but when Drogba played the ball back to Mikel the midfielder's drive ended up bouncing back off an advertising hoarding.

Cole won a corner to keep the pressure on and Essien's drive from the edge of the box only just cleared the Boro crossbar.

Boro made a change in the 64th minute when Afonso Alves replaced Tuncay, with Chelsea then sending Shaun Wright-Phillips on for Ballack.

Cole set up the newcomer straight away and watched him fire past Schwarzer but wide of the far post.

Another chance came the substitute's way seconds later thanks to Kalou's pass and this time he fired lazily over.

Boro almost made Chelsea pay but Alves nodded a free header wastefully wide after Downing, having switched to the right, had picked him out in the box.


Luck favoured Chelsea from the next attack when Cudicini came out to meet Cattermole's ball for Alves to chase - and failed to make contact.

Defenders poured back but Alves calmly took aim at the empty goal before rolling the ball against the far post, with Cudicini gratefully grabbing the rebound on his return.

Taylor blocked a much better Wright-Phillips effort before Schwarzer pulled off a reflex save to deny Kalou at the back post.

There was another amazing let-off for Chelsea in the 83rd minute when first Alves and then Wheater headed against the crossbar - and Jeremie Aliadiere then blasted over as the home side remained vulnerable.


Chelsea  Cudicini, Belletti, Carvalho, Terry, Bridge, Ballack (Wright-Phillips 65), Essien, Mikel, J. Cole, Drogba (Alex 89), Kalou (Anelka 78)
Subs Not Used  Hilario, Shevchenko
Booked  Wright-Phillips
Goals  Carvalho 6

Middlesbrough  Schwarzer, Young, Wheater, Pogatetz, Taylor, O’Neil (Johnson 79), Cattermole (Shawky 89), Boateng, Downing, Sanli (Alves 64), Aliadiere
Subs Not Used Turnbull, McMahon
Booked Cattermole

Attendance 39,993

 P. Dowd

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