Johnson's strike gives late reward to Chelsea

Blackburn Rovers 2 Chelsea 3
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The Independent Football

The Roman revolution prevailed over the House that Jack Built yesterday as Chelsea and Blackburn, the clubs who have benefited from English football's two most generous benefactors, met in an open, entertaining match at Ewood Park.

Chelsea were indebted to the right-back Glen Johnson for a last-minute winner after it seemed Blackburn would salvage an unlikely point in a game they might have lost by three or four goals.

After falling behind to an early Garry Flitcroft strike, Chelsea were dominant, with Frank Lampard's ninth and 10th goals of the season establishing a deserved lead.

But it appeared their failure to convert any of several subsequent chances would cost them when the Blackburn substitute Paul Gallagher equalised shortly before the end. Fortunately for Chelsea, there was just time for Johnson to hit a sweet drive into the top corner.

"We started badly but after that we played good football," Claudio Ranieri, the Chelsea manager said. "But we must be more clinical. We must go for the kill."

Earlier, Scott Parker had completed an assured debut, revelling in his new team's one-touch football and finding some excellent attacking positions. Quite when and where Ranieri intends to play Parker in the long term is open to question, but with so many midfielders unavailable yesterday, it was relatively easy to accommodate him.

He began the game in an unfamiliar role on the left, with Emmanuel Petit anchoring the midfield. Before long, Parker switched to the right, Petit went left and Claude Makelele was restored to his customary central holding role. "I was pleased with Scott," Ranieri said. "I changed his position three times during the game - so now he knows me very well."

Blackburn started at a furious pace and were ahead within three minutes. Markus Babbel rose well at the far post to head a cross from the debutant Michael Gray back across goal where Flitcroft, unmarked, side-footed home from close range.

Chelsea gradually began to assert themselves once Ranieri had rearranged his midfield. Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink wriggled free down Blackburn's left and pulled the ball back into the path of Lampard. What his shot lacked in purity of strike, it made up for in accuracy and bobbled in off the far post.

Chelsea were soon ahead. Tugay Kerimoglu gave the ball away and with the Blackburn defence caught hopelessly out of position, Petit played in Lampard, who finished with ease.

Chelsea began to pass the ball around with aplomb. Twice Adrian Mutu came close to scoring stunning goals, once with a scissor-kick that flew wide and then with a deft chip that floated just off target.

Just when it seemed the game had slipped away from Blackburn, they equalised - or so it appeared. With Ewood Park celebrating following Gallagher's deft finish, the linesman's flag correctly gave Chelsea a reprieve.

At the other end, Lampard was denied a hat-trick with a header by a stunning save from Brad Friedel. A few minutes later Blackburn were level - but only for a minute.

"It's more of the same from us," Graeme Souness, the Blackburn manager, said. "We need to be braver in defence and be prepared to go in where it hurts when it really matters."

Goals: Flitcroft (3) 1-0; Lampard (25) 1-1; Lampard (35) 2-1; Gallagher (87) 2-2; Johnson (88) 2-3.

Blackburn Rovers (4-4-2): Friedel 7; Neill 5, Todd 4, Babbel 5, Gray 6; Emerton 3, Tugay 4, Flitcroft 5, Douglas 5 (Mahon, 55 6); Yorke 2 (Gallagher, 55 6), Cole 5. Substitutes not used: Encklelman (gk), Jansen, Johansson

Chelsea (4-4-2): Cudicini 6; Johnson 7, Gallas 5, Terry 6, Bridge 5; Parker 7 (Gronkjaer, 69 5), Makelele 6, Lampard 8, Petit 6 (Melchiot, 80); Hasselbaink 7, Mutu 8 (Gudjohnsen, 90). Substitutes not used: Sullivan (gk), Melchiot, Gudjohnsen, Nicolas

Referee: D Gallagher (Banbury)

Booked: Blackburn: Tugay, Neill.

Man of the match: Mutu (Chelsea).

Attendance: 24,867.