Terry Heads Blues To Victory (Sky Sports)
Chelsea 1 Middlesbrough 0
John Terry's header was enough to see off a resolute Middlesbrough outfit as Chelsea ran out 1-0 winners at Stamford Bridge.
The Teessiders more than provided a match for The Blues and will feel they might even have taken something from their trip to West London.
However, Terry's second-half goal, coming just past the hour mark, settled a competitive encounter and Jose Mourinho's side have now opened up even more daylight at the top of the Premiership table.
Middlesbrough made a lively start with Steve McClaren's positive formation, spearheaded by Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Yakubu Aiyegbeni, retaining possession well and frustrating Chelsea.
Indeed, it was James Morrison who had the first shot of note with a speculative long-range strike that Petr Cech had to keep an eye on.
But gradually the hosts began to find their rhythm and Damien Duff brought the rather subdued home crowd to life by cutting in off the left wing and firing in a goalbound shot which was blocked by Didier Drogba as he attempted evasive action.
However, Boro could and should have hit the front on the quarter hour mark; Yakubu's long-range shot was blocked by Terry and fell perfectly for Hasselbaink on his old stamping ground, but, after holding off Asier Del Horno, the Dutchman saw his effort beat Cech but bounce back off the post.
Chelsea responded in kind with a delightful cameo from Arjen Robben who cut inside Matthew Bates and George Boateng, skipped past Doriva but could not quite find a finish to match as his right-foot effort flew over.
The visitors survived another scare moments later when neither William Gallas nor Del Horno could force Duff's inswinging corner from the right over the line.
Robben served notice of his threat again when he danced to the touchline but could not beat Gareth Southgate who cut out his cross at the near post.
The Blues turned the screw as the half wore on and were indebted to Brazilian Fabio Rochemback who cleared a Terry header off the line following a corner.
But Boro continued to hold their own and after going in level at the break made a positive start to the second period without ever really threatening Cech's goal.
By contrast Mourinho's side started to look more and more likely with each passing minute and only some excellent defending by Southgate denied Drogba as he attempted to cut inside the defender after being released by Frank Lampard.
The reprieve was only temporary, though, and the deadlock was finally broken on 62 minutes when Terry got up superbly to meet another Duff corner from the right and this time Rochemback was unable to prevent the ball from crossing the line.
The goal seemed to galvanise The Blues and one could have become two very quickly had Lampard's goalbound shot from Robben's cut-back not been blocked.
Shortly afterwards Drogba produced his candidate for miss of the season when he completely miscued front right in front of goal after Duff had tricked his way past Emanuel Pogatetz and to the by-line.
Michael Essien saw a firm header saved while Lampard blazed over after being set up by substitute Shaun Wright-Phillips.
But Middlesbrough refused to be bowed and reminded the Premiership champions they were still in the game when Doriva flashed a long-range effort wide with Cech keeping a close eye.
However, an equaliser was not forthcoming with Chelsea's ever dependable back-line ensuring another clean sheet and another three points.
|6||Shots on target ( Inc Goals )||1|
|8||Shots off Target (inc woodwork)||4|
|15||Total Fouls Conceded||13|
Cech, Del Horno, Gallas, Carvalho, Terry, Duff,
Essien, Lampard, Drogba (C. Cole 78), Gudjohnsen (Geremi 64), Robben
Subs Not Used Cudicini, Ferreira
Goals Terry 62
Schwarzer, Bates, Pogatetz,
Riggott, Southgate, Boateng, Doriva, Morrison (queudrue 81), Rochemback,
Hasselbaink (Viduka 72), Yakubu
Subs Not Used Jones, Ehiogo, JohnsonBooked