Ipswich Town 0 Chelsea 0 (Sky Sports)
Penalty Stop Piles On The Pressure For TownI
Chelsea keeper Carlo Cudicini's superb one-handed save from Marcus Bent's first-half spot-kick turned up the heat on troubled Ipswich Town at a sweaty Portman Road.
Cudicini, who also saved penalties against Sunderland and Liverpool earlier this season, flung himself to his right to repel Bent's powerful right-foot shot 12 minutes before the break.
It was Ipswich's only clear-cut chance of a game that ebbed and flowed without ever exploding. And how they could be made to pay for their profligacy by Blackburn Rovers on Easter Monday night.
Town's relegation rivals take on Southampton at Ewood Park, live on Sky Sports 1 (KO20.00), knowing victory will put daylight between them and the third relegation spot.
The draw temporarily moves Ipswich up to 17th in the table, one point clear of Graeme Souness' side. But a home win in Lancashire will bring the Blues crashing back into the drop zone and the spectre of relegation closer.
It is their remaining fixture list which is the real problem though. After all, facing Middlesbrough and Bolton may offer some hope but taking on Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool in their other three remaining games does not. Wasted opportunities over Easter could come back to haunt them.
The draw was equally unhelpful to Chelsea's cause as they needed three points to displace Newcastle in the fourth Champions League place. But the Blues stay two-points behind Toon Army with two games less to play. That particular Euro dream may now be dead.
In truth, neither side really did enough to win this exciting contest. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink threatened but saw his long-range assault comfortably dealt with by Andy Marshall. Ipswich just couldn't break through the Chelsea back four.
But the game ended goalless thanks to Bent's failure from the spot and Chelsea midfielder Mario Stanic's inability to slot home into an open net.
Bent spotted the ball after Alun Armstrong was tumbled by a clumsy John Terry challenge in the box. But Cudicini stylishly turned the ball around the post before being swamped by his team-mates.
Nine minutes later, and with Ipswich fans' heads still in their hands, Gianfranco Zola turned inside right-back Fabian Wilnis and powered a ball across the face, but Stanic found the side netting with the goal gaping.
Up until that point, the game had been clogged up in midfield. Both teams favouring hurried shots from distance over patient progress around the final third. And most of what went before and after rarely threatened either keeper.
Bent curled a delicate right-footer just wide of the upright in the seventh minute, while Zola choked his effort from 20-yards moments later. Sixto Peralta and Finidi George also missed the target from way out in the first-half.
Chelsea always looked the team most likely to make the breakthrough though. It could have happened on 31 minutes when Hasselbaink made space in the box, but Wilnis snuffed out the threat as quickly as it came. Stanic also missed the target again with a second-half header from close range.
Marshall was required to punch the ball off the top of Hasselbaink's head to prevent the Dutchman reaching Zola's lobbed cross later on. Graeme Le Saux was also required to clear danger at the other end as Armstrong threatened to latch onto a cross by Bent.
Cudicini then batted Matt Holland's fiercely-driven free-kick away after George was tripped by Terry inches outside the box. But the game ended goalless and with Ipswich's Premiership status hanging in the balance. All eyes in Suffolk are now cast over Ewood Park, especially those of Marcus Bent.
OF THE MATCH (CARLO CUDICINI) IPSWICH TOWN
Ipswich: Marshall, Wilnis, McGreal, Venus,
Hreidarsson, George (Clapham 84), Holland, Tommy Miller, Peralta (Darren
Bent 70), Armstrong (Stewart 70), Marcus Bent.
Chelsea: Cudicini, Melchiot, Terry, Desailly,
Le Saux, Stanic (Zenden 60), Jokanovic, Dalla Bona (Lampard 66), Zola,