Chelsea Woe Continues   (Sky Sports)

Blackburn Rovers 1  Chelsea 1

ElHadji DioufJust when Chelsea thought their week could not get any worse El-Hadji Diouf ensured it did just that, as his towering far post header earned Blackburn a 1-1 draw at Ewood Park.

After Didier Drogba's 28th goal of the season gave Chelsea a fifth minute lead it looked to be business as usual, as a lively first half display made easy work of a Blackburn side who looked lethargic in comparison.

Whether Sam Allardyce tore a strip into his players at half-time will likely remain in the sanctuary of the dressing room, but whatever he said had the desired effect as the home side were awoken from their collective slumber.

Never more so than when with 20 minutes remaining Michel Salgado slung over an inviting delivery from the right that saw Diouf outmuscle Paulo Ferreira to plant his header beyond Ross Turnbull at his near post.

Chelsea upped the ante to exert pressure on their hosts but chances remained at a premium, as Drogba's scorching low volley was brilliantly repelled by Jason Brown at the death to ensure it is advantage Manchester United and Arsenal at the summit.

For Chelsea, whose record in their past nine matches is now four wins, four defeats and one draw, this was hardly a display of title-winning credentials and they are now four points behind Manchester United and two behind Arsenal, though with a game in hand.

Fine debut

This was underlined by the fact that the clear man of the match was none other than Rovers' 18-year-old central defender Phil Jones, making his league debut and up against Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

Allardyce had gambled on him in the absence of Ryan Nelsen and Gael Givet.

That gamble may have seen rash as Drogba carved out an early chance for himself, dinking a neat curling shot just wide of the post despite being surrounded by a posse of defenders.

That was just a foretaste of what was to come as the Ivory Coast striker opened the scoring in the sixth minute with an almost effortless simplicity.

Anelka burst down the right, cut inside Jones and laid the ball back for Drogba to wrong-foot the entire Rovers defence and keeper Brown with a neat left-footed finish back into the opposite corner.

Salomon Kalou threatened to further emphasise Chelsea's early dominance with a header from a corner that flew over the crossbar but from then on it was downhill for the visitors.

David Dunn won a free-kick in Morten Gamst Pedersen range after being halted by an agricultural challenge by Alex, but although the Norwegian was on target Chelsea keeper Turnbull turned his effort behind.

Pedersen had another sight of goal but was wildly off-target with his volley, while Jones drew the loudest cheers from the Rovers fans so far with a series of crunching - but legal - challenges as Blackburn did their best to out-power the visitors.

Ivanovic injury

Florent Malouda let fly from 20 yards out with a stinging drive but Brown managed to parry the shot, if somewhat unconvincingly.

Carlo Ancelotti was then forced to make a change just before the break with Branislav Ivanovic, who appeared to have been stood on unintentionally by Diouf, limped off to be replaced by Yuri Zhirkov.

Blackburn, as if scenting that Chelsea may have missed a trick by scoring just a single goal in the first half, upped the tempo in the second.

Zhirkov's first involvement for Chelsea, right at the start of the second half was to head off the line after Chris Samba had beaten the flapping Turnbull to Pedersen's long throw.

Pedersen was then left cursing again when given space to shoot from 25 yards out but missing the target by some margin.

Frank Lampard, who had been having a quiet game by his standards, was much closer with a rising effort from the same range that was a whisker away from the top right-hand corner.

Body blow

The suspicion that Chelsea had seemed over-confident in settling for a 1-0 win had been growing the longer the second half went on, and in the 70th minute Diouf made them pay.

The Senegal international hung in the air above Ferreira to meet Salgado's cross with a superb header down into the corner.

Chelsea, stung in action, became more direct themselves and Alex struck a piledriver from a 30-yard free-kick over the bar.

With time running down, Drogba was denied a fine winner by a good block, then Jones crowned a magnificent debut with an intercepting header to keep out John Terry.

Rovers celebrated as though they had won the Premier League. Chelsea looked as though they had just lost it.

Blackburn Rovers

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Territorial Advantage



Blackburn Rovers  Brown, Salgado, Samba, Jones, Olsson, Diouf, Dunn (Emerton 56), N’Zonzi (Hoilett 90), Andrews, Pedersen, Kalinic (Roberts 63)
Subs Not Used Bunn, Jacobsen, Chimbonda, Lingazi
Goals  Diouf 70

Chelsea  Turnbull, Ivanovic (Zhirkov 45), Alex, Terry, Ferreira, Lampard, Mikel, Malouda, Anelka (Sturridge 90), Drogba, Kalou (Deco 74)
Subs Not Used  Sebek, Bruma, Matic, J. Cole
Booked  Zhirkov
Goals  Drogba 6

Attendance 25,554

Referee  S. Bennett

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