Peerless Lampard at the double to thwart Blackburn fightback

Chelsea 4 Blackburn Rovers 2
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The Independent Football

Chelsea, champions and champions-elect, had first swaggered into a two-goal lead, then staggered, felled by a brace of Craig Bellamy sling-shots in a first half in which Rovers had, according to their manager Mark Hughes, "dominated the game and caused them problems". It required Frank Lampard to unsheath his blade of deadly intent and set about these audacious interlopers.

A goal direct from a free-kick just after the hour - a 10th of the season for the Premiership's leading scorer - was the most tangible evidence of his impact. Yet those goals merely encapsulated a performance of great maturity, vision and tenacity, one for which his manager will have been mightily grateful.

Asked for an estimation of the midfielder who has illuminated most of his 157 consecutive Premiership games (only two short of David James's record), Mourinho retorted sharply: "You should ask the top people in world football, responsible for these beautiful trophies, the Golden Boot and the Gold Ball [Ballon D'Or] what they're doing at weekends, because Frank Lampard wins nothing."

The Chelsea manager added: "There are some great players in the world of football, no doubt. But other players may have one good game a month, are man of the match in one game then don't get a touch in the next. Lampard is the best in every game. He is the best in the world."

By the time he had established a 3-2 advantage, Chelsea's cause had been aided by the dismissal to the stands of Hughes. There is history, of course, between these sides. Mourinho had described Blackburn in his programme notes as being "very aggressive ... they try to control the pace and emotion of the game". Not exactly the most placatory of language.

Hughes, who understandably professed himself "very encouraged" by his team's first-half display, was ordered out of the dug-out by referee Mike Riley after engaging in a contretemps with the fourth official, Trevor Kettle, as his side were pulled up for successive free-kicks. Eventually Hughes vented his anger on a nearby kitbag. Kettle summoned Riley, and after the manager's dismissal his side swiftly capitulated, sustaining a defeat which extends Chelsea's unbeaten Premiership run to 40 games.

"I don't know whether it [the sending-off] had any influence, but it doesn't make it easy when you're sent to the stand," Hughes said. "I'm still confused why. I wasn't happy with a couple of decisions. The ref ignored me, so I kicked the bag. We had five bookings, and it was never that kind of game. Maybe his views were shaped by the comments in the programme."

Chelsea were rampant in the first few minutes. Lampard's cross after a corner was played back to him, found the head of the poorly marked Didier Drogba and he steered the ball across Brad Friedel for the opener.

By the 13th minute, Chelsea had increased their advantage. Andy Todd held John Terry in the area as a cross was delivered and Riley was left with no option but to award the spot kick.

Lampard drove the penalty past Friedel with a ferocity which demonstrated his desire to put the game quickly beyond Blackburn, particularly with Tuesday's away Champions' League game against Real Betis in mind.

He was foiled in that endeavour four minutes later when Ricardo Carvalho caught Zurab Khizanishvili in the area, Craig Bellamy deceiving Petr Cech from the spot. Heartened, Rovers provoked uncertainty within the home back-line, and one inventive move ended with Brett Emerton forcing a diving save.

As half-time beckoned, Rovers equalised. From Chelsea, the team who once prided themselves on their secure defence, it was an horrendous aberration. It appeared innocuous when Asier Del Horno attempted a headed back-pass but Cech sliced his clearance. Shefki Kuqi outjumped Terry to head the ball back across the goal and Bellamy nodded it into the net.

Only for Lampard to flex his muscles. After his free-kick curled past Friedel, Joe Cole's long-range attempt was deflected off Khizanishvili for the fourth.

So, what constitutes a crisis here? Well, clearly not an away draw to the then bottom side followed by a Carling Cup exit on penalties. Both must now be considered minor blemishes on the features of a newly emboldened Chelsea as they march on, Lampard in the vanguard.