Bold Boro Hold Blues At Bridge (Sky Sports)
Chelsea 0 Middlesbrough 0
By Graeme Bailey
Chelsea's title dreams hang by a thread after the UEFA Champions League semi-finalists were held to a goalless draw by Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge.
The Blues huffed and puffed for most of the game and created a few very good chances - but Boro played well and had enough opportunities themselves to claim they could have taken maximum points.
Middlesbrough had the better of the opening half in terms of possession and created numerous chances - although nothing clear cut and it was Chelsea who should have been ahead.
Juninho fired over from the edge of the area when unmarked after just seven minutes, while Gaizka Mendieta had a chance blocked.
Joe Cole, making a rare start, then turned and shot wide when well placed on the edge of the six-yard box.
Massimo Maccarone then fired wide with an effort he made himself, he picked the ball up close to the by-line and turned inside past three defenders before unleashing his effort past the post.
John Terry then forced Mark Schwarzer to tip the ball over when he met a Claude Makalele free kick, but it never really looked like beating the giant Aussie.
From the resulting corner Chelsea had claims for a penalty as again Terry won the header at the far post and the ball seemed to cannon of Ugo Ehiogu's arm before being cleared to safety.
Juninho and Frank Lampard then exchanged shots, as the match moved from end to end.
Boro's open approach then almost caught them out as Chelsea put them under immense pressure just before the interval.
The first good chance came when Lampard broke into the area on an archetypal marauding run - but he could only hammer his shot straight at Schwarzer.
Boro could not clear their lines and Eidur Gudjohnsen picked the ball up on the edge of the area and curled an effort towards goal - only for the ball to cannon off Schwarzer's right hand post and into the path of Lampard who seemed to slip with the goal at his mercy and he could only shoot wide.
Juan Sebastian Veron was brought on early in the second period for Claude Makelele - who was stretched off after a collision with Mendieta, for his first appearance since November.
The Argentine tried his best to inspire his side, but was limited to just two half chances as he blasted two free kicks over the bar.
Gudjohnsen and Geremi then came close, but again they failed to really test the Boro goal.
Boro also made changes and two of those substitutes - Stewart Downing and Michael Ricketts, almost combined to give them a lead with just ten minutes remaining.
Downing broke down the left and skinned the Chelsea defence before crossing perfectly for Ricketts - but he could only send his header well wide.
Lampard, like in the first half, missed a glorious chance to break the deadlock as he found himself unmarked just 12 yards out from goal - but he could only hook a tame effort wide.
Boro continued to push and Marco Ambrosio was at full stretch to deny Mendieta with just minutes left after the Spaniard unleashed a scintillating free kick.
Chelsea could then have easily won the game in the last minute when Gudjohnsen fired in a low angled drive at the back post - but Schwarzer, helped by his defence, blocked and cleared to secure a share of the spoils.
After such a brilliant week for Chelsea - which saw them defeat Arsenal to make the Champions League semi-finals, nothing more than a win was expected for The Blues.
However, Boro produced a stellar away display and Claudio Ranieri is unlikely to complain - although he may now concede the title to Arsenal with his side now six points adrift of The Gunners, having played a game more.
Chelsea: Ambrosio, Gallas, Desailly,
Terry, Babayaro (Huth 73), Gronkjaer (Geremi 45), Lampard, Makelele (Veron 57),
Cole, Hasselbaink, Gudjohnsen.
Subs Not Used: Sullivan, Crespo.
Middlesbrough: Schwarzer, Queudrue,
Ehiogu, Cooper, Parnaby, Greening, Boateng, Mendieta, Nemeth (Ricketts 68),
Juninho Paulista, Maccarone (Downing 75).
Subs Not Used: Turnbull, Ricardinho, Bates.
Referee: M Halsey (Lancashire).