Lampard leap keeps Kean in firing line
Blackburn Rovers 0 Chelsea 1: In-form midfielder ends Chelsea's losing run as Torres adds another howler to season's miss-list
Sunday 06 November 2011
A match which was in serious danger of disappearing into a quagmire of apathy and ineptitude was mercifully rescued by Frank Lampard's latest demonstration of predatory finishing.
The England midfielder's instinctive plunge to meet a low cross from Branislav Ivanovic gave Chelsea welcome respite from their mini-crisis as the international break beckons. It had the opposite effect on Blackburn Rovers, endorsing their depressing start to the campaign and keeping the heat on their beleaguered manager, Steve Kean.
The campaign by Rovers supporters to rid themselves of the manager who has earned them 28 points from a possible 96 since taking over from Sam Allardyce captured the attention during a first period almost devoid of entertaining moments despite being extended by seven minutes due to Chelsea's goalkeeper Petr Cech requiring prolonged treatment for a broken nose.
During that seemingly interminable stoppage – of the football, not the bleeding – the 21,985 fans were kept awake by the buzzing of a light aircraft which was commissioned, apparently for a fee of £500, by parts of a disgruntled Ewood Park crowd who were prevented from bringing their own protest banners to the ground.
Kean insisted that he was not looking skywards as he waited for Cech to be cleared to play on. "What did the banner say?" he asked. "Steve Kean out!" came the blunt reply, to sheepish press room giggles.
Kean shrugged off that imaginative sacking call as he has during similar displays of dissatisfaction during most of his tenure. "I don't want to sound like a broken record but I am confident that we can go on an unbeaten run very soon," he said, mindful of a forthcoming fixture list which is far more appealing than the one his team has faced so far this season.
"If we continue to play as well as we did today against a very strong Chelsea team who have taken a lot of money to assemble then we should be able to start climbing the table before much longer."
Kean had a point and the pressure he is experiencing could easily have been heaped heavily on his Stamford Bridge counterpart, Andre Villas-Boas, if Rovers had enjoyed a modicum of good fortune in front of goal.
On several occasions they threatened to embarrass the groggy Cech, whose reputation as the Premier League's most accomplished goalkeeper has been indelibly tarnished this term.
Cech, praised by his manager for his bravery and commitment to the cause, was ultimately able to celebrate a first clean sheet since the opening day draw at Stoke but that, he will acknowledge, was due more to luck than judgement. That was especially so when the big goalkeeper failed to deal with a blistering free-kick from Morten Gamst Pedersen and parried it straight to the onrushing Grant Hanley who pushed the follow-up attempt straight at a grateful Cech.
With Yakubu also failing to capitalise on a glittering opportunity carved out by Junior Hoilett's through ball to Mauro Formica and, Ivanovic heading against his own crossbar in a desperate attempt to prevent Gaël Givet from equalising, Kean was justified in claiming that his men deserved a point at the very least.
Villas-Boas hinted at his agreement with that claim. "Blackburn had several good chances and we were glad that we could keep them out," he said. "This is never an easy place to come to as Arsenal discovered recently and we are pleased to get the result after our back-to-back Premier League defeats."
The Chelsea manager's minders protected him from fielding questions about John Terry, restored to duty after his Champions' League lay-off, as investigations continue into alleged racist comments during the defeat at QPR. Theban extended to prohibiting speculation about the England captaincy for the friendlies against Spain and Sweden.
Villas-Boas was instead happy to talk affectionately about another of England's stalwarts, Lampard, who, despite coming under criticism and being left out by Villas-Boas early in the season, is comfortably his club's leading scorer with seven goals. "Frank found his timing to arrive in the box just like the old days" said the manager about the game's decisive moment.
Fernando Torres, the £50m striker Villas-Boas inherited from Carlo Ancelotti, should be at least level with Lampard by now. His horrifying miss against Manchester United at Old Trafford now has company in the list of the season's blunders following the Spaniard's spooning over the bar of anAshley Cole cross from inside the six-yard box.
"We badly needed a second goal to ease the late pressure and it was a pity Fernando could not provide it," was Villas-Boas's view.
Blackburn (4-5-1): Robinson; Lowe, Samba (Hanley, 45), Givet, Olsson; Rochina (Dunn, 71), Formica, Nzonzi, Pedersen, Hoilett; Yakubu.
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ivanovic, Alex, Terry, Cole; Ramires (Romeu, 90), Mikel, Lampard; Mata (Meireles, 82), Sturridge, Malouda (Torres, h-t).
Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the match: Lampard (Chelsea)
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