Premier League – Anelka brace puts Chelsea back on top
Nicolas Anelka struck twice as Chelsea went back to the top of the Premier League table with a 2-0 win over Blackburn Rovers at a rain-soaked Ewood Park.
A torrential downpour made conditions almost unplayable in Lancashire but Anelka overcame the elements to find the net in each half and fire Chelsea back above Liverpool on goal difference.
Anelka broke the deadlock on 39 minutes, deflecting a long-range Alex shot past Paul Robinson, before adding a second in the 68th minute with a cool dinked finish over the otherwise excellent Rovers keeper.
The win – on manager Luiz Felipe Scolari’s 60th birthday – was Chelsea’s sixth out of six on the road so far this season and did much to make amends for their Champions League defeat to Roma in midweek.
Despite the appalling playing conditions, the visitors flew out of the blocks and went on to dominate the first half, even though it took them the majority of the opening period to find a way through the Rovers defence.
That the deadlock lasted so long had much to do with the form of Robinson, who pulled off a string of fine saves to deny Anelka two headed efforts, a John Obi Mikel header and Frank Lampard‘s bouncing strike before even 20 minutes were on the clock.
Chelsea had earlier seen a loud penalty shout waved away by referee Chris Foy when Anelka tumbled to the ground under a challenge from Robinson after having latched onto a suicidal Keith Andrews back pass. Replays showed there was minimal contact between the two.
Terry saw a header fly over the bar before Anelka and Lampard were again thwarted by Robinson as Chelsea pressed for an opener.
The pressure finally told as Anelka netted his first of the day six minutes before the half-time whistle; the goal stood despite loud calls from Robinson for handball against the Frenchman.
During the break, the skies cleared and by the time the second half kicked off the weather were far more clement – Blackburn capitalised and began to work their way back into the game as Chelsea eased off the gas.
During the opening period, Blackburn had just a Carlos Villanueva shot on the break to shout about – an effort which brought a fine save out of Petr Cech – but once the rain had stopped, Paul Ince’s side looked far more threatening.
The hosts could have equalised soon after the restart when Jason Roberts – asked to play as a lone striker due to Blackburn’s injury problems – turned John Terry with some neat control on his chest to make space for a shot. Only a fine save by Cech foiled him.
Blackburn continued to press for an equaliser, but Chelsea hit them on the break on 68 minutes to effectively seal all three points.
Anelka registered his sixth goal in the last three league games when he reacted sharply to pounce on a loose ball in the box ahead of Robinson, clipping it over the keeper and into the back of the net.
At 2-0 up, Chelsea were able to cruise for the remainder of the game, and they should have added to their tally, Lampard rattling the cross bar with a terrific free-kick moments before Terry missed his kick from close range with eight minutes left.