Premier League – Chelsea scrape past Boro

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Chelsea stayed within four points of leaders Manchester United with a 1-0 win over Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge.

FOOTBALL Chelsea John Terry Ricardo Carvalho Salomon Kalou - 0

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Defender Ricardo Carvalho scored his first goal of the season by rising highest to head in a Wayne Bridge free kick after just five minutes.

Middlesbrough had barely had a touch of the ball in the time between kick-off and the goal, as Chelsea retained possession and spread the play all across the pitch in confident fashion.

They had their first effort on goal almost immediately from going behind, but Carvalho again caused Gareth Southgate‘s side frustration, this time blocking George Boateng‘s volley on the edge of the area. There were appeals for handball against the Poruguese, but referee Phil Dowd ignored the protests.

Chelsea striker Didier Drogba had a frustrating first half, heading one effort wide from close range and another over the bar, as well as having a well-struck free kick deflected just wide of the target as the half drew to a close.

The Ivorian hobbled off for treatment in stoppage time, after being fouled by Lee Cattermole, a challenge for which the midfielder received a yellow card, but he did recovered during the break and returned for the second half.

Aside from Mark Schwarzer sliding out to smother a ball that the influential Joe Cole had chased into the he first 20 minutes following the break passed largely without incident, and it took the introductions of Alfonso Alves for Middlesbrough and Shaun Wright-Phillips for Chelsea to add some excitement into the match.

Wright-Phillips could have had two goals in his first two minutes on the pitch, as he pulled a shot wide of the far post with his first touch, before side-footing over the bar with time and space inside the area.

Alves, too had opportunities, and headed one effort off target from a good position. After that, he found himself onside as he chased down and long ball over the top of the Chelsea defence. Goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini rushed way out of his goal to intercept, but completely missed the ball to leave an open goal, only for Alves to hit the post with his early shot.

Middlesbrough grew in confidence after that incident, and were desperately unlucky not to equalise when first Alves and then David Wheater hits the bar with headers within five seconds off each other, with Jeremie Aliadiere blasting the follow-up well off target from close range.

The visitors continued to pile on the pressure, and even thei9r goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer came up for a last-minute free kick, but they could make it count and Chelsea somehow kept their title hopes alive.

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