Ivanovic hits the front to punish profligate Rovers

Blackburn Rovers 1 Chelsea 2

Football talks of points being chiselled out, but this was a Mount Rushmore of a victory. Chelsea would have been happy with one. They flew back to London with three.

Branislav Ivanovic's winner may have been so much against the grain of the game that it left splinters but it was superbly executed. Throughout the afternoon, Blackburn's crosses were of a significantly higher quality than the champions' but, under pressure and in mid-turn, Yuri Zhirkov produced a wonderful delivery that found Chelsea's right-back unmarked.

Moments before, Blackburn, who had produced perhaps their finest performance of the season, had been handed an equally inviting opportunity when Jason Roberts was played clean through. As his manager, Sam Allardyce, remarked with the resigned sigh of a man who knows he should have won, everything about the way Roberts created the opening was perfect except for the finish, which went six inches the wrong side of the post.

"It was one of those days when you play as well as you possibly can but we needed to convert chances into goals at the right time," Allardyce reflected. "We got the ultimate kick in the teeth when you don't punish the opposition."

It was a result that might be compared to Manchester United's victory at Stoke last Sunday as a win at one of the Premier League's more forbidding minor venues. However, Blackburn performed far better than Stoke and Chelsea far worse than United had done. Even when Nicolas Anelka equalised, the match refused to run to a predictable pattern, and had Mame Biram Diouf arrived fractionally sooner to meet Morten Gamst Pedersen's low free-kick, Blackburn would have had a second before Roberts squandered his chance.

"It was very difficult to play here and it was important to get a result and stay top," said Chelsea's manager, Carlo Ancelotti, afterwards. "Blackburn put us under pressure; we didn't find the space in the middle of the pitch, although in the second half we took more of a risk on the counterattack."

With Allardyce employing a Diouf on either flank, Chelsea were harried, denied space and opened up continually with some high-class crossing. The sight of Benjani operating asthe lone striker had, however, drawn a metaphorical sigh.

His best days were long ago and far away at Portsmouth, nobody ever quite figured out what he was doing at Manchester City and the hamstring injury that forced him off at half-time showed why Allardyce might have had second thoughts about the deal.

And yet the Zimbabwean still has something about him. It was not just his goal, the way he squeezed between Chelsea's two centre-halves, Alex and John Terry, to head home El-Hadji Diouf's wonderfully precise cross. The breakthrough had been coming; moments earlier, Benjani had thundered through and shot against the goalkeeper's legs.

Petr Cech was at least more in control of that move than he had been when Mame Biram Diouf attempted what appeared an innocuous chip into the Chelsea area. Cech slipped and had to palm the ball away one-handed.

"The thing about Chelsea is that when they are being outplayed, they hang in there and hang in there," said Allardyce.

Zhirkov, who was supposed to be an indulgent buy at the behest of Roman Abramovich, threatened constantly and had a shot brilliantly saved by Paul Robinson, while Anelka was a familiar threat.

Chelsea's equaliser, like their winner, may have looked simple but was beautifully executed. Florent Malouda's long ball was skilfully taken down by Didier Drogba and swept in by Anelka for his 11th goal in 15 appearances against Rovers, to whom he must seem like an avenging angel.

Attendance: 25,836

Referee: Peter Walton

Man of the match: Zhirkov

Match rating: 7/10

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Angel Di Maria is shown the red card
Roger Federer after his win over Tomas Berdych
Life and Style
News in briefs: big pants in 'Bridget Jones's Diary'
fashionBig knickers are back
James Milner is set to sign for Liverpool this week despite rival interest from Arsenal
sportReds baulk at Benteke £32.5m release clause
The controversial Motor Neurone Disease Association poster, featuring sufferer Michael Smith, has drawn a series of angry complaints
newsThis one has been criticised for its 'threatening tone'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Day In a Page

On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

Thongs ain't what they used to be

Big knickers are back
Thurston Moore interview

Thurston Moore interview

On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
In full bloom

In full bloom

Floral print womenswear
From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

From leading man to Elephant Man

Bradley Cooper is terrific
In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

In this the person to restore our trust in the banks?

Dame Colette Bowe - interview
When do the creative juices dry up?

When do the creative juices dry up?

David Lodge thinks he knows
The 'Cher moment' happening across fashion just now

Fashion's Cher moment

Ageing beauty will always be more classy than all that booty
Thousands of teenage girls enduring debilitating illnesses after routine school cancer vaccination

Health fears over school cancer jab

Shock new Freedom of Information figures show how thousands of girls have suffered serious symptoms after routine HPV injection
Fifa President Sepp Blatter warns his opponents: 'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

'I forgive everyone, but I don't forget'

Fifa president Sepp Blatter issues defiant warning to opponents
Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report

Weather warning

Extreme summer temperatures will soon cause deaths of up to 1,700 more Britons a year, says government report
LSD: Speaking to volunteer users of the drug as trials get underway to see if it cures depression and addiction

High hopes for LSD

Meet the volunteer users helping to see if it cures depression and addiction
German soldier who died fighting for UK in Battle of Waterloo should be removed from museum display and given dignified funeral, say historians

Saving Private Brandt

A Belgian museum's display of the skeleton of a soldier killed at Waterloo prompts calls for him to be given a dignified funeral