Chelsea 0 Blackburn Rovers 0: Chelsea fail to break Rovers despite Shevchenko's return

Mourinho's men lose ground in title race at home to resilient Blackburn
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The Independent Online

Mark Hughes, celebrating his third anniversary as Blackburn Rovers manager since he relinquished the Wales job and succeeded Graeme Souness at Ewood Park, will have enjoyed this. And not merely because his team continued their fine start to the season at such a daunting location. Jose Mourinho had referred in his programme notes to Blackburn as a "competitive team" who have come here to give us a "hard time". So it transpired.

By the end of a contest in which Chelsea controversially had a goal disallowed, provoking Mourinho's profound displeasure, and, more worryingly, the spectacle of Rovers defender Christopher Samba receiving lengthy attention before being transferred to hospital, after being accidentally kicked in the head by Andriy Shevchenko, the visitors had, indeed, provided redoubtable opponents. With Ryan Nelsen in particularly defiant mood, Rovers ensured that Chelsea have now gone two Premiership games without victory, which is a relatively rare phenomenon in itself. Perhaps more perturbingly, they have scored only two goals in four Premier League games.

In Mourinho's mind that should be three in four. The Chelsea manager had introduced substitutes Mikel and Florent Malouda, for Steve Sidwell and Shaun Wright-Phillips, approaching the hour, and appeared to have been rewarded a minute later when Juliano Belletti's pass across goal found Salomon Kalou who beat Brad Friedel, only to have the goal disallowed for offside. As Chelsea players celebrated in one corner, Blackburn took a quick free-kick and prepared to catch their hosts on the break. It was fortunate for them that referee Howard Webb brought play back.

The offside decision was marginal, although it actually appeared correct. However, it infuriated Mourinho and his assistant Steve Clarke, who remonstrated with fourth official, Peter Walton. So indignant was the Portuguese that he grabbed a portable TV screen and thrust it in front of Mr Walton, asking him to review the incident. Mourinho also had words with Mr Webb at the final whistle.

"Why was the goal disallowed? You must ask the linesman," declared Mourinho. "I told him that I'm waiting for his phone call to apologise – and Mr Hackett (the referees' supremo), too. But I'm not going to ask. The game is over. We lost the points." Presumably his counterpart Hughes believes he will be waiting a long time. "It was offside, although Chelsea are obviously not happy with that. The assistant immediately put his flag up."

It was perhaps also not a day on which to dwell on such matters, with concern rather more acute about the health of Samba. In the closing minutes, Shevchenko got his head to a Kalou cross, which Friedel beat away, but as the Ukrainian striker went to follow up, his boot caught Samba with a sickening blow on the head. The game was held up for several minutes as Rovers medical staff attended the unconscious player, and ensured that he did not swallow his tongue.

Later, it was confirmed by a Rovers spokesman that Samba was "conscious, talking and hoping to fly back with the team".

Before the start, home supporters joined in a minute's applause for Ian Porterfield, who died in midweek aged 61. The former Chelsea manager wouldn't have been too impressed by what had been display by the Londoners in the early minutes.

Chelsea were aiming to take their unbeaten home run to 66 games but were handicapped by the absence of the injured Frank Lampard in midfield and Didier Drogba in attack. Shevchenko, making his first appearance of the season for Mourinho's side, saw his header midway through the first period clear the bar. The striker should have at least been on target.

Joe Cole fashioned Chelsea's best opportunity of the half, setting up Michael Essien for a long-range drive. Friedel pulled off a fine save. Rovers were always a threaten on the counter. An attempt from Robbie Savage forced Petr Cech into an acrobatic save before a late Chelsea onslaught, the disallowed goal and Samba's injury on another frustrating day for Mourinho.

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