One hundred million
of the folding stuff may be able to do a lot of things
in life but one thing it cant achieve, it appears,
is a breaking down of the damn hoodoo Blackburn Rovers
hold over Chelsea at Stamford Bridge.
That the Lancashire side have never
lost here in the Premiership is now a well known fact
but in addition to this, you have to look back as
far as 1966 to find the last Chelsea top flight victory
in this fixture.
Doing something about this perpetual
annoyance will have to wait another season then after
this sharing of the honours but at least a draw continues
our unbeaten start, and in all fairness, a win didnt
ever really look there for the taking, especially
after being made to come back from twice falling behind,
the first time from a shockingly early set-back.
Andy Cole may be past his prime but
you wouldnt know it from the way he has started
this season. He had two goals from one start and two
sub appearances before today and it took him a mere
19 seconds to make his mark this afternoon.
Blackburn advanced with the first
attack of the game, only for Marcel Desailly to win
possession from Jansen, but with the ball heading
out of play, the captains attempt to keep the
ball in went horribly wrong.
Jansen regained control, crossed low
and Cole thumped a volley home. Talk about taking
the wind out of our sails! We would now have to react
to being behind for the first time this season.
Initially the response was unconvincing.
Cudicini had to turn a Jansen shot around the post
before Geremi and Lampard managed to at last test
Friedel with straightish efforts.
Verons touches were mostly not
coming off while Damien Duff, who suffered no adverse
reaction from the Blackburn fans, was finding it hard
come across chances to exhibit his skills.
On 18 minutes, Ranieri shuffled his
stuttering midfield pack. Duff had again started on
the right but now went left with Veron moving from
that wing to the middle. It meant Geremi would operate
down the right flank for the first time this season.
For the remainder of the half, the
cheerful Cameroonian would provide more dangerous
ball than any other source so far this campaign but
before that, an angled low ball from Duff had evaded
Mutus boot by inches only.
The Romanian was continuing to impress.
Mobile, nippy and so well balanced, he had been threatening
to combine with colleague to make a clear opening
throughout and on the half-hour, he got on the end
Jimmy had come deep and he drove the
ball wide to Geremi who crossed low. Mutu applied
the finishing touch, wheeled away to celebrate only
to swap joy for despondency when the linemans
flag was spotted. It was a controversial moment.
The Chelsea striker was clearly behind
the ball when Geremi crossed so cant have been
contravening any regulation at that point and when
he received Hasselbainks pass the flag remained
down. The one explanation for the decision is that
Mutu was considered both in an offside position (true)
and active (debatable) when that Jimmy to Geremi pass
With Chelsea still cursing our luck,
we were almost made to suffer even further when Blackburn
went straight down the other end and curled a shot
just wide through Thompson.
Duff chipped and volleyed over then
Bridge struck straight at Friedel and it looked like
we would go down the tunnel at half-time behind.
But Mutu wasnt to be denied
his second goal in his second game and it came with
referee Styles already thinking about which biscuit
he would have with his half-time cuppa.
Veron started the move with a ball
through the middle, Lampard exchanged touches with
Hasselbaink and then played a lovely weighted ball
into the path of Mutu who with supreme sharpness,
took two touches to round the keeper and finish. No
linesmans flag this time.
The most significant action of the
half had all been compressed within 30 seconds of
its start and end and the second half began with another
Duff came off with Petit replacing
him as the midfield now moved into a diamond shape,
fronted by Veron with Geremi now on the left, Petit
at the back and Lampard right.
Chelseas first attempt after
the break was Veron banging a shot over from 30 yards
and it was a concern that unlike previous years down
here, Brad Friedel in the Blackburn goal was not having
to play a blinder to keep us at bay.
Instead it was the other goalkeeper
that became the big story. Tugay went down rather
easily as John Terry went to challenge him and from
25 yards out, Cudicini was characteristically agile
to tip Thompsons free-kick over from just under
From the resultant corner, Carlos
response was anything but characteristic. It was played
short to Thompson who crossed over Petits leap
and when Cudicini fluffed his two-fisted punch, the
ball fell to Cole at the back post who sidefooted
At least the wait to get back on terms
was a short one. A pass down the line by Bridge was
met by a Mutu touch off. Geremi crossed with his unfavoured
left and just inside his own area, Lucas Neill raised
his hand to block.
Hasselbaink now had the memory of
his only Chelsea penalty miss hanging over him from
his last attempt in Malaysia but this time there was
no mistake as he opened his body and drove the ball
low to Friedels left and in.
The game entered a physical phase
with Petit clearly upset about a perceived elbow by
Flitcroft which resulted in treatment plus an in-the-face
verbal exchange when the Chelsea man returned to the
pitch. The rough stuff continued with rapid succession
bookings for Amoruso and Thompson.
Thankfully it was back to football
action and rising tension as despite the lack of fluid
play, the Chelsea crowd sensed a late winner.
Veron and Hasselbaink worked an unusual free-kick
which the latter smacked wide but then at the other
end, Cudicini had to fall sharply to smoother substitute
Gallaghers shot after a corner.
With quarter-of-an-hour to go, the
Mutu threat was removed by Ranieri but it was replaced
by the advent of Hernan Crespos Chelsea career.
The service he needed to write his
fairytale start couldnt be found however although
he was wrongly flagged offside when chasing a penetrating
Instead it was his compatriot who
fired Chelseas final bullet, Verons free-kick
being deflected over.
Blackburns final flourish came
in injury time when Flitcroft almost dipped the ball
in from the edge of the area after a Lampard mistake
but you sensed the visitors were happy with the draw.
So in the end it was two mistakes
from two of Chelseas most dependable players
that cost the team dear today although the disallowed
goal can also be pointed at with some cause for grievance.
It always sticks in the throat when
a 100 per cent record reaches its end puncturing
those ridiculous dreams of the perfect season. But
we remain in touch, Mutu increasingly looks the part
and the story continues to be anything but boring
in these oh-so early days.
The late summer sun
mixed with an early autumn nip in the air seemed wholly
appropriate conditions for an afternoon of fluctuating
emotions at Stamford Bridge.