Chelsea 0v0 Rovers
Saturday 15th September 2007. 17:15
A determined display ensured that Rovers remained unbeaten this season as they earned a well deserved point at the home of the fallen champions; however, I don`t think I will be the only one feeling a miniscule amount of disappointment that we didn`t show more adventure.
Mark Hughes started with the same side that beat Manchester City last time out but as was well documented, Jose Mourinho was forced to shuffle his pack and begrudgingly pick the £30million man.
The game opened at a frantic pace with both sides indicating an effusive willingness to attack. A strong intensity filled the ground as both sides frantically charged around like over-excited children released onto a playground.
This had the neutrals and indeed both sets of fans drooling at the prospect of an open and attacking game, even if it was disjointed early on.
However before many had noticed twenty minutes had elapsed and the journalists notepads were worryingly sparse. It needed someone to take control and it was the impressive Michael Essien who took the initiative. On 26 minutes he unleashed a rasping drive that was expertly saved by Brad Friedel at full stretch, turning the ball around the post.
This raised the tempo and Chelsea`s forgotten man Andriy Shevchenko soon found his feet as he burst clear of the Rovers defence briefly, only to be thwarted by another smart save from Friedel who had anticipated the burst and raced off his line.
Alas, just as the game appeared to be moving up a gear it once again lapsed and the excitement evaporated quicker than a Derby County defensive wall.
Referee Howard Webb, brought an end to a disappointing first half. The game needed a boost from somewhere, nevertheless Rovers were still very much in with a chance of winning this game.
Many anticipated more aggression in the second half and it duly arrived as Chelsea went for the jugular; patiently.
The match`s moment of controversy, well it had to have one because it invariably follows both clubs around like a nebulous cloud, arrived on 57 minutes when Saloman Kalou swept home a centre from Juliano Belletti only to see it chalked off by a late flag that belied the real truth of the move. Kalou had indeed timed his run well and was onside when he 'scored`.
Mourinho wasn`t happy and his berating and vitriolic scorn towards the officials demonstrated this.
Alas, the game must go on and indeed it did with Rovers edging closer back to Friedel`s goal and Chelsea flattering to create something that resembled an opening.
However, the next moment of inspiration arrived from the boot of the fiery blonde haired midfield meddler that is Robbie Savage. He hit a stinking shot from 20 plus yards after Belletti had been caught in possession. It took a slight deflection but Petr Cech was equal to it, denying Rovers once again in a manner that brought memories of the FA Cup semi-final display flooding back.
From the ensuing corner Samba lashed a shot wide as Rovers sensed an element of fear in their up till now, dominant adversaries.
Although a few brief moments of attacking play twitched to life Rovers couldn`t again trouble Cech. It was at the other end where heroes a plenty emerged wearing red and black. Chelsea threw everything at Rovers with John Terry playing up-front.
Shevchenko perhaps should have had his hero goal but once again he was denied by one of the numerous cast members of Rovers` own heroes. Friedel, making himself as big as possible, flung across goal to block the Ukrainian`s point bland header. In the process the man mountain that is Chris Samba was seemingly knocked unconscious after colliding with Shevchenko`s boot.
A prolonged period was afforded to his health and wellbeing as physios worked hard to make sure the machine was still working. Eventually he was stretchered off to the applause of the whole stadium. At this point a quick digression if you will to commend the role John Terry played in this period. He was quickly on scene moving players out of the way to ensure that Samba received the best treatment. Well done John.
An addition of nine minutes of playing time ensured most Rovers fans lost their fingernails but were compensated with another point to add to their impressive start to the season.
Fifteen unbeaten and counting.
Big bad Brad made a number of fine saves that once again served to demonstarte his value and how important it is to have a 'keeper of that quality if you want to be successful.
Santa Cruz 6