|Gudjohnsen: best chance
FA Barclaycard Premiership
Charlie McFaulds reporting
There were times in this match when you had to wonder if the
proposed television strike would actually have been a bad thing had
it gone ahead.
Chelsea and Blackburn tried in vain to put on a show but neither
team had the imagination to make the breakthrough here at Stamford
Bridge - it was largely a stale affair.
Rovers have already shown their capabilities to frustrate the top
teams in the Premiership this season, and once again their organisation
In Keith Gillespie Blackburn had a player who looked rejuvenated as
he turned, twisted and ran at Graeme Le Saux and his fellow
defenders in the opening 30 minutes.
The first real goal threat came from the other flank on 14 minutes,
when Damien Duff slipped down the touchline and delivered a superb
chip to the middle, but Matt Jansen failed to provide the finish the
Two minutes later Gillespie cut in from the other touchline, taking
a handful of Chelsea defenders out of the game, and rolled the ball
into the path off Alan Mahon, whose touch evaded Carlo Cudicini. The
keeper's momentum carried him into the Blackburn man, but referee
Graham Poll correctly turned down claims for a penalty.
The game then hit a lull with a scrap for midfield supremacy taking
place, before Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink missed a chance to put
Chelsea ahead after 37 minutes.
The ball broke to the Dutch striker in yards of space inside the box
and sat up nicely, but his powerful half-volley narrowly missed the
corner flag and went for a throw-in. He really could not have
managed such an outcome had he been trying.
Apart from a John Terry trundler 25-yards out, and another Hasselbaink
effort from similar distance that was once again closer to the
corner flag than the goal frame, the hosts offered little to cheer
their fans in the opening half.
Chelsea twice threatened the Rovers goal in the opening five minutes
of the second half though, as it became apparent that they had
stepped up their game. Terry got a header on target that was easily
saved, and then substitute Sam Dalla Bona had a shot from 20-yards
that was nonchalantly stopped with one hand by Brad Friedel.
The big US stopper then raced off his line to deny Eidur Gudjohnsen
moments later, in what would be the best chance of the game.
Former Chelsea favourite Mark Hughes entered the fray on the hour,
and was immediately involved in the action, battling for position
with Le Saux for a loose ball deep in the Chelsea half.
The much travelled Sven Goran Eriksson saw England hopeful
David Dunn almost break the deadlock with a sizzling shot from a
free-kick, which whizzed narrowly past the post.
Then Hasselbaink went down twice in the box in the space of three
minutes, in an effort to con referee Poll into awarding spot-kicks.
His second tumble under a challenge from Henning Berg was laughable,
and should have been punished with a yellow card.
Not sure if a televison audience would actually miss those sorts of
theatrics. The majority of those who paid substantial money to be
here were certainly more than willing to voice their disapproval at
the final whistle.
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Keith Gillespie (Blackburn Rovers)
The Blackburn winger earns the award by default as his contribution
ended in the first half, but there were some signs of the form he
produced regularly as a youngster.
Melchiot, Gallas, Terry, Le Saux, Stanic, Petit, Lampard, Zenden (Dalla
Bona 46), Hasselbaink, Zola (Gudjohnsen 46).
Subs Not Used: de Goey, Babayaro, Forssell.
Curtis, Short, Berg (Johansson 82), Bjornebye, Gillespie, Dunn,
Tugay, Mahon (Hughes 60), Duff, Jansen.
Subs Not Used: Filan, Hignett, Taylor.
Booked: Duff, Tugay.
Ref: Graham Poll (Tring).