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Kalou Brace Downs Boro  (Sky Sports)

Chelsea 2 Middlesbrough 0

Salomon Kalou celebrates

Chelsea moved into second place in the Premier League after a hard fought, but thoroughly deserved, 2-0 win over Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge.

Liverpool could only draw at Wigan, which gave Chelsea the chance to move into second and they took full advantage with victory over a stubborn but toothless Middlesbrough.

Boro frustrated the home side and limited Chelsea to few chances in the first-half - but they were undone by two simple corners in the second period, with Salomon Kalou taking advantage on both occasions.

The first he lashed home from 12-yards as David Wheater's clearance fell to him just before the hour. He then headed home from six-yards as Ross Turnbull misjudged the flight of the ball.

The win is a real boost for Chelsea, whose title ambitions remain firmly intact as they travel to meet Liverpool on Sunday - whilst Boro's clash with Blackburn at the weekend is of huge significance as they have now gone 11 games without a league win, their worst run of form for 12 years.

Chelsea's start was hardly inspiring, though, with a hopeful dribble into the penalty area from Kalou the highlight of the opening 10 minutes of the game.

Middlesbrough had clearly arrived at Stamford Bridge intent on earning at least a point by the way they had packed their midfield.

New loan signing Marlon King was left isolated as a lone striker with Boro sticking to a five-man midfield.

But Chelsea still found a way to bypass the crowded midfield and, in the 13th minute, it almost brought them the opening goal.

A right-wing cross from Jose Bosingwa found Ashley Cole unmarked at the far post but the England defender headed the ball into the side-netting.

In the 15th minute, Michael Ballack, two-goal hero of their win over Ipswich in the FA Cup on Saturday, almost put the Blues in front with a trademark free-kick. Ballack's second goal against Ipswich was a delightful free-kick over Town's defensive wall, this time he cleverly curled the ball towards the corner only to see it skid on the wet surface and bounce off Turnbull's chest.

Frank Lampard, another free-kick hero against Ipswich, got the chance to repeat his feat in the 32nd minute but this time he sent his 25-yard effort over the crossbar.

Chelsea's continued reliance on trying to pass the ball through a nine-man defensive barrier was clearly not working.

Their best hope was to score from a set-piece and Kalou almost obliged in the 35th minute when he headed a corner from Lampard just too high.

Three minutes later Malouda and Kalou combined to set up a shooting opportunity for Lampard on the edge of the penalty area.

The England midfielder, invited to pick his spot by the static Boro defence, sent his effort just the wrong side of Turnbull's left-hand upright.

Drogba on

Chelsea boss Luiz Felipe Scolari was clearly not happy with the first-half performance and replaced Malouda with Didier Drogba at the interval.

They should have opened the scoring shortly after the re-start when a corner from Lampard reached the head of Ballack.

The German international cleverly knocked the ball back to Alex, whose header was goalbound until team-mate Kalou inexplicably got in the way and glanced it over the bar.

Moments later Chris Riggott was booked for a foul on Drogba and Alex's resultant 30-yard free-kick was deflected for another corner.

This time they broke the deadlock through Kalou in the 58th minute.

Middlesbrough defender David Wheater could only partially head clear and Kalou volleyed the ball into the roof of the net.

The Ivorian celebrated with a bizarre handcuff-style gesture with both wrists crossed in front of him.

Middlesbrough's response was to send on Afonso Alves and Tuncay Sanli in place of Shawky and King in the 63rd minute.

Chelsea could have added a second when Drogba and Nicolas Anelka combined superbly. The Ivorian's clever pass set up Anelka perfectly but the France striker sent his shot into the arms of Turnbull at the near post.

Kalou made it two for Chelsea 10 minutes from time with his last act of the game.

The Ivorian rose unmarked to head home a corner from Lampard after Middlesbrough goalkeeper Turnbull had completely miss the ball.

Kalou, who again celebrated his goal with the handcuff gesture, was then substituted by Scolari. 

Teams

Chelsea  Cech, A. Cole, Alex, Bosingwa, Terry, Ballack, Mikel, Lampard, Anelka (Stoch 88), Kalou (Deco 82), Malouda (Drogba 46)
Subs Not Used  Hilario, Ferreira, Ivanovic, Mancienne
Booked 
Goals 
Kalou 58, 81

Middlesbrough  Turnbull, McMahon, Riggott, Wheater, Pogatetz, Johnson, O’Neil, Bates, Shawky (Sanli 64), Downing, King (Alves 64)
Subs Not Used Jones, Hoyte, Emnes, Arca, Huth
Booked  Shawky, Riggott
Goals 

Attendance 40,280

Referee L. Probert

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