That Jose Mourinho felt it necessary to join his team in front of the away end and order his players to fling their black shirts into the mass of Chelsea's support tells you that this was no routine victory at Ewood Park
That Jose Mourinho felt it necessary to join his team in front of the away end and order his players to fling their black shirts into the mass of Chelsea's support tells you that this was no routine victory at Ewood Park. It was, Mourinho said, a "fight not a football match, and we fought", and when the dust had settled on their eighth consecutive Premiership win, Chelsea's lead at the top had increased to 11 points.
The fifth-minute goal from Arjen Robben, and a crucial penalty save by Petr Cech, were the outstanding individual contributions for Chelsea, but it was the force with which Blackburn flew into the tackle that consumed Mourinho. The Portuguese coach has not made a friend in Mark Hughes, whose hand he failed to shake at full-time, and the Blackburn manager will not find his opposite number's assessment of the match easy reading.
Mourinho was insistent that Blackburn "could not beat us by football" so resorted to an approach pioneered by the midfielder Robbie Savage who, he added, "committed 20 fouls and was not booked". "I am not saying they tried to injure my players but they were nasty, hard and tried to intimidate us," Mourinho said. "We came here to play football but it was a different kind of game. They played direct football: aggressive and intimidating.
"We showed that we can win in any circumstances. I got a big answer from my players. The people at home did not get to watch a good football match. The opposition didn't want to play football and the referee made a little contribution to that. We had to fight and my players were magnificent."
The bad news for Mourinho is that his squad has not emerged completely unscathed. Robben was withdrawn after 12 minutes with a bruised foot that, Mourinho said, could rule the winger out for "weeks or months". His striker Didier Drogba has a groin injury which prevented him from travelling with the team yesterday and he could also miss the visit of Manchester City on Sunday.
Set against those problems it is unlikely that Mourinho will give much thought to the anger he provoked in the otherwise unflappable Chelsea old boy Hughes. The Blackburn manager could not hide his disgust at Mourinho charging across the pitch to join his celebrating players at full-time. "He wasn't gracious enough to shake my hand," Hughes said. "You have to be gracious in victory as well as defeat." Hughes would not be bothering to invite Mourinho in for a drink as he was, the Blackburn manager said, "probably still out on the pitch".
The Chelsea manager's response to the complaint did nothing to endear him to the people of north Lancashire. "Ridiculous," he sneered, "I wanted to be with my players, not other people. If I see him later I will shake his hand."
It only took Cech four minutes to pass a Premiership record of significance. Cech has now gone 781 minutes in the Premiership without conceding a goal and last night he surpassed Peter Schmeichel's record of 694 minutes that has stood since 1997. To preserve the clean sheet, Cech had to make a magnificent penalty save from Paul Dickov after the striker had been tripped by Paulo Ferreira on 34 minutes. The Scot struck the spot-kick low and hard towards Cech's left corner, but somehow the Chelsea goalkeeper threw himself across in time to touch the ball out and then scoop it back into his grasp.
By then, Blackburn were already a goal down. On five minutes, Frank Lampard hooked a ball out to the left which was guided on its way by Eidur Gudjohnsen. From the moment that Robben took the ball into his stride it seemed improbable that Lucas Neill would dispossess him. The winger turned inside, and then back again at pace, before sweeping a low shot past Brad Friedel.
Ewood Park braced itself for another blizzard of goals from the leaders, but Blackburn edged their way back into the game. Savage was unsentimental in his challenges, especially on Duff, but the key battle was between Dickov and John Terry. The Chelsea captain could hardly control his anger at the treatment meted out to him and the referee, Uriah Rennie, booked the pair in quick succession in the second half.
Joe Cole, a 12th-minute replacement for Robben, stormed down the tunnel when he was substituted with 11 minutes left. Although Blackburn's chances were few, apart from the penalty, Hughes could only bring himself to describe Chelsea as "supposedly the best team in the league". "Apart from that we made them look ordinary," he added. "We had more desire than them and dictated the play for long periods."
Mourinho's analysis was even simpler: "I don't care about Manchester United and I don't care about Arsenal," he said. "We need to win nine matches and draw one to be champions."
Blackburn Rovers (4-1-4-1): Friedel; Neill, Todd, Nelsen, Matteo; Mokoena; Emerton, Savage, Thompson (Reid, 80), Pedersen; Dickov. Substitutes not used: Enckelman (gk), Amoruso, Tugay, Johnson.
Chelsea (4-5-1): Cech; Ferreira, Gallas, Terry, Bridge; Robben (Cole, 12; Jarosik, 78), Tiago, Lampard, Makelele, Duff; Gudjohnsen (Kezman, 82). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Johnson.
Referee: U Rennie (South Yorkshire).Reuse content