Rovers left Black and Blue
25th October 2006. 20:00
Rovers` League Cup campaign poured away on Wednesday night amidst swirling wind and rain. A dominant Chelsea side confidently strode into Ewood Park and despite some early flashes from Rovers, controlled the game with the lightening quick Arjen Robben dominating proceedings.
Monsoon conditions invaded this small town of Lancashire and there were early concerns that the fixture might not be played. Both sides made changes to their starting eleven, Mark Hughes three, and Jose Mourinho four.
Stephane Henchoz came in to deputise for the injured Andre Ooijer, Aaron Mokoena, likewise, covered for Robbie Savage and Jay McEveley made his first appearance of the season as Lucas Neill reverted back to familiar surroundings and Brett Emerton pushed forward.
With only four Premiership sides through to the next round and a number playing each other tonight, both sides showed aggressive early intentions to ensure their name would be in the hat for the lucrative tie against Notts County.
However, it was Chelsea who took control. Robben really began to excel as he hit a couple of thunderbolts towards goal that were smartly repelled by Brad Friedel.
Torrential rain made conditions worse as players began slipping and sliding all over the place. Conditions would have suited professional diver Didier Drogba.
Chelsea`s corner count was rising alarmingly as was the level of rain. A wishy-washy spat between Joe Cole and David Bentley, from which both players were booked, livened up the fixture mid way through the first half. However, it did appear as though Cole struck Bentley in the face, so question marks will certainly rise as to whether or not he should have been on the pitch.
Both goalkeepers were doing well considering the conditions and Friedel was again called upon when Michael Essien was left criminally unmarked from Robben`s corner.
Five minutes before half-time it was Hilario`s turn to produce an excellent save. Morten Gamst Pedersen audaciously drilled in a free-kick from nearly 35-yards that zipped off of the surface before Hilario diverted it onto the post and then wide. Rovers were finishing the half the stronger side.
A frantic effort from the ground staff to drain away some of the puddles caused great amusement for the 14,732 crowd.
The second half began in a rather disjointed manner as Chelsea`s over-aggressive style of play, more befitting of a Blackburn Rovers side in this fixture two years ago, caused Gamst to be taken off. Chelsea were kitted out in an all black strip that is more common in Rugby Union; the same could have been said of their playing style for a brief period. However, ever the opportunists, Chelsea duly took the lead as Rovers looked to re-organise after Sergio Peter had come on.
Joe Cole, just to rub it in that he was still on the pitch, eventually tapped home after some lovely work out wide from Salomon Kalou. He cleverly nut-megged debutant, Stephane Henchoz before drilling the ball low across the six yard box, allowing Cole to neatly prod home with his back to goal.
Chelsea were definitely now in the ascendancy. The formidable figure of John Terry forced Shabani Nonda to leave the pitch on a stretcher after a collision. Rovers had been knocked for six in more ways than one.
In the torrid winter conditions, Rovers struggled to find any rhythm and could only muster a handful of balls into the box and long distance efforts.
In the 65th minute Mourinho exploded into life with a tirade of shouting and finger pointing after Khalid Boulahrouz went into the book. It was hard to understand the Portuguese mastermind`s reasoning behind the outburst but then again, when does he have a 'normal` reason behind his verbose verbiage spouting?
Benni McCarthy twice went close before Salomon Kalou scored his first Chelsea goal to round off the night. Recently introduced substitute, Shaun Wright-Philips did the damage with a lovely burst through the Rovers defence but he was thwarted brilliantly by Friedel but Kalou was on hand to roll the ball in.
Rovers continued the battle on two fronts, against the conditions and against Chelsea but looked like an exhausted side in need of a rest.
The fixture against West Ham on Sunday will be tough and on the evidence of the tired conclusion, it will be exactly what the doctor ordered for Alan Pardew. They are due a win and this Rovers side look tired and stretched.
Very few would have anticipated a Rovers win tonight but Chelsea leave Ewood Park for the second time this season with a clean sheet, two goals and a victory.
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He looked aggressive and direct when he came on with a number of spritly runs down the wing.