Chelsea stumble in title race after draw at Blackburn

Blackburn 1 Chelsea 1

Chelsea suffered a stumble in the title race that could yet prove fatal to their chances of taking the Barclays Premier League crown to round off a week of bitter disappointment for Carlo Ancelotti's side.

A match that seemed there for the taking after Didier Drogba's early goal somehow drifted out of Chelsea's grasp.

El Hadji Diouf headed a superb equaliser as Blackburn put in such a powerful second-half performance that keeper Jason Brown was barely tested.

For Chelsea, whose record in their past nine matches is now four wins, four defeats and one draw, this was hardly a display of title-winning credentials and they are now four points behind Manchester United and two behind Arsenal, though with a game in hand.

This was underlined by the fact that the clear man of the match was none other than Rovers' 18-year-old central defender Phil Jones, making his league debut and up against Drogba and Nicolas Anelka.

Blackburn boss Sam Allardyce had gambled on him in the absence of Ryan Nelsen and Gael Givet.

That gamble may have seen rash as Drogba carved out an early chance for himself, dinking a neat curling shot just wide of the post despite being surrounded by a posse of defenders.

That was just a foretaste of what was to come as the Ivory Coast striker opened the scoring in the sixth minute with an almost effortless simplicity.

Anelka burst down the right, cut inside Jones and laid the ball back for Drogba to wrong-foot the entire Rovers defence and keeper Jason Brown with a neat left-footed finish back into the opposite corner.

Kalou threatened to further emphasise Chelsea's early dominance with a header from a corner that flew over the crossbar but from then on it was downhill for the visitors.

David Dunn won a free-kick in Morten Gamst Pedersen range after being halted by an agricultural challenge by Alex, but although the Norwegian was on target Chelsea keeper Ross Turnbull turned his effort behind.

Pedersen had another sight of goal but was wildly off-target with his volley, while Jones drew the loudest cheers from the Rovers fans so far with a series of crunching - but legal - challenges as Blackburn did their best to out-power the visitors.

Florent Malouda let fly from 20 yards out with a stinging drive but Brown managed to parry the shot, if somewhat unconvincingly.

Ancelotti was then forced to make a change just before the break with Branislav Ivanovic, who appeared to have been stood on unintentionally by El Hadji Diouf, limped off to be replaced by Zhirkov.

Blackburn, as if scenting that Chelsea may have missed a trick by scoring just a single goal in the first half, upped the tempo in the second.

Zhirkov's first involvement for Chelsea, right at the start of the second half was to head off the line after Chris Samba had beaten the flapping Turnbull to Pedersen's long throw.

Pedersen was then left cursing again when given space to shoot from 25 yards out but missing the target by some margin.

Frank Lampard, who had been having a quiet game by his standards, was much closer with a rising effort from the same range that was a whisker away from the top right-hand corner.

The suspicion that Chelsea had seemed over-confident in settling for a 1-0 win had been growing the longer the second half went on, and in the 70th minute Diouf made them pay.

The Senegal international hung in the air above Ferreira to meet Michel Salgado's cross with a superb header down into the corner.

Chelsea, stung in action, became more direct themselves and Alex struck a piledriver from a 30-yard free-kick over the bar.

With time running down, Drogba was denied a fine winner by a good block, then Jones crowned a magnificent debut with an intercepting header to keep out John Terry.

Rovers celebrated as though they had won the Premier League. Chelsea looked as though they had just lost it.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
News
peopleAt least it's for a worthwhile cause
Voices
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
voicesMaybe the new app will make it more normal to reach out to strangers
News
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Life and Style
Sexual health charities have campaigned for the kits to be regulated
healthAmerican woman who did tells parents there is 'nothing to be afraid of'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments