Ipswich hit by Cudicini's bandwagon

Ipswich Town 0 Chelsea 0
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The Independent Football

A virtuoso performance by the Chelsea goalkeeper, Carlo Cudicini, ensured that the spectre of impending relegation looms ever more menacingly over Portman Road.

Cudicini not only produced his third penalty save of the season to deny the Ipswich striker Marcus Bent, but the Italian also conjured two other first-class efforts to condemn George Burley's side to an increasingly tense end to the season.

At any other stage, a home point against Chelsea would not be a disaster and the Ipswich manager can at least take comfort in the spirit shown by his side. However, this was still not the result either side wanted. Ipswich now face a run-in that is the very stuff of nightmares. Facing Middlesbrough and Bolton may offer some hope, but taking on Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool in their other three remaining games does not.

Chelsea, meanwhile, had their own chances to break the deadlock, but with Eidur Gudjohnsen and Frank Lampard rested until the final half-hour, their attacking edge was blunted. A point similarly does them few favours in their bid to qualify for the Champions' League.

Claudio Ranieri chose to freshen up Chelsea by omitting Gudjohnsen and Lampard even though William Gallas, Emmanuel Petit and Jesper Gronkjaer were injured. In came Mikael Forssell, Gianfranco Zola, Slavisa Jokanovic and Sam Dalla Bona. Zola was forced to cope on the left flank and he was not alone in struggling to make an impact in a patchy first half.

Then again, while it was Ipswich who held sway in terms of possession, they lacked the creativity to open up Chelsea's defence. Marcus Bent and Tommy Miller curled efforts narrowly wide, while Zola also had three efforts which failed to trouble the goalkeeper Andy Marshall.

The stroke of good fortune that Ipswich desperately needed looked to have materialised 12 minutes before the break, when Alun Armstrong was pulled to ground by John Terry. However, the fates are not smiling on Ipswich and Marcus Bent's cleanly-struck penalty was tipped the ball over the bar by a full-stretch Cudicini.

Mario Stanic struck the side netting soon afterwards, but it was Ipswich who continued to threaten either side of the break as Finidi George and Miller came close. A free-kick on the edge of the area also gave them hope, only for Cudicini to block Matt Holland's fiercely-driven shot.

Chelsea were now asserting their dominance. Boudewijn Zenden and Jimmy-Floyd Hasselbaink forced saves from Marshall before Ipswich responded with a bold attacking move of their own. However, for all of their effort, the breakthrough did not come as Cudicini came to Chelsea's rescue again, this time blocking out George with his legs.

Ipswich Town (4-4-2): Marshall 7; Wilnis 5, McGreal 5, Venus 5, Hreidarsson 6; George 5 (Clapham, 84), Holland 6, T Miller 5, Peralta 6 (D Bent 5, 70); Armstrong 5 (Stewart 5, 70), M Bent 4. Substitutes not used: Sereni (gk), Bramble.

Chelsea (4-4-2): Cudicini 9; Melchiot 5, Terry 5, Desailly 7, Le Saux 6; Stanic 5 (Zenden 6, 60), Jokanovic 5, Dalla Bona 4 (Lampard 5, 66), Zola 4; Hasselbaink 5, Forssell 4 (Gudjohnsen 5, 66). Substitutes not used: De Goey (gk), Ferrer.

Referee: E Wolstenholme (Blackburn) 6.