A fantastic header from Hernan
Crespo his third goal in as many League games
won the points after a shaky second half for the Blues.
Damien Duff created both Chelseas goals.
Following our domination of the first
half and Boros superiority in the second, it was
not perhaps deserved. But when world class players produce
match-winning moments, such analysis is redundant.
This was a lively game, despite Boro manager
McLarens customary defensive approach. Chelsea could
have taken the lead in the first minute, Duffs drilled
cross eluding a gaggle in the box and Jesper Gronkjaers
shot drawing a corner from Schwarzer, who was the busier
of the two keepers.
McLaren had opted for a 4-4-1-1 formation
with Nemeth deployed to feed solo striker Christie and
after one or two incisive early moments, the lack of penetration
was obvious, and Chelseas football was expansive
throughout the first period.
Duff, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Eidur Gudjohnsen
and Gronkjaer were all making good use of seeing lots
of the ball and the width if the pitch. The corner count
ended eight to two in favour of the visitors.
After 16 minutes, the flustered Boateng
was cleverly robbed by Frank Lampard having an
influential game ahead of Saturdays Turkish rendezvous
and fed Duff. The Irishman cutely played in Gudjohnsen
inside the box and he drove low and neatly inside Schwarzers
right post for his first Premiership goal this season.
Wayne Bridge and Glen Johnson were getting
forward and looking very confident.
Has there been a younger defensive foursome fielded in
the Premiership than those two plus John Terry and Robert
Huth? What is almost certainly Chelseas youngest
back-line in a competitive match consisted of two 19-year-olds
and two 22-year-olds. There were no defenders on the bench.
It was a considerable show of faith in his youngsters
from Ranieri, and it was only in the second half that
their relative inexperience began to show.
In the meantime John Terry hit the bar
with a superb header from Lampards deep free kick
and, although Huth was booked (along with Hasselbaink),
there were few scares.
The second half was utterly different.
Claudio Ranieri swapped Hernan Crespo for Hasselbaink
at half time but it was McLarens tactical switch
pushing on Nemeth and allowing Mendieta a free
role behind the front two that changed things.
The Spaniard, on loan from Valencia, was a revelation,
dictating play and eluding all minders. Just 18 seconds
after the restart he slipped past Huth, and put in the
unmarked Nemeth for a simple finish. It was another example
of the sloppiness that has cost goals this season, and
we only fitfully ran the game for the remainder of time.
Carlo Cudicini never had to make any spectacular
saves, but as the young backline was regularly breached,
he alongside Huth, Terry, Lampard and the neat,
combative Claude Makelele had to be alert to several
It was not all one-way. Gudjohnsen might
have done better with his header from Gronkjaers
cross, and Schwarzer reacted with astonishment to Huths
35-yard free kick just before the hour, knocking the fierce
drive away with his forearm.
Then, after Brazilian midfielder Doriva
had driven an excellent chance straight at Cudicini and
the Italian had reacted quickly to clear from Christies
feet once again, Crespo began to find good openings.
He had gathered a kick out on the volley
and driven it just wide, then just failed to control a
clever flicked pass into the box from Makelele when he
set out to pressurise Cooper. Having smartly robbed the
veteran centre-back, he drove his shot high into Schwarzers
Now Ranieri made his final flourish, removing
Gronkjaer and Gudjohnsen in favour of Joe Cole and Adrian
Mutu. The Romanian joined Crespo, Duff switched wings
and Cole went left.
With five minutes to go, lively Mutus
run across goal was stopped unfairly, but his free kick
was straight at wall.
McLaren responded by withdrawing Christie
and Nemeth for Ricketts and Downing, and switched to a
4-5-1 formation which only served to nullify Mendieta
and allowed Chelsea to push forward again.
Within minutes, Duff, back to goal, performed a trademark
double feint turn and swung in a wicked cross that Crespo,
much like Lampard against Spurs, brilliantly squeezed
into the bottom right corner past the despairing Schwarzer.
He stormed over to celebrate with the Chelsea fans at
that end in delight.
It might all have been premature had Johnsons
inadvisable challenge on Downing in the box been adjudged
Whatever, a clever one-two between Cole
and Mutu nearly resulted in the Romanian finding the top
corner with a curling shot, and another from the same
source that was too weak to trouble the Boro keeper, closed
It is our fifth consecutive away win in
all competitions, and we are third, level on points with
Man Utd, with a game in hand. A sixth away win will put
29,170 watched an absorbing match. How
many will have gone away impressed by Chelseas match-winning
abilities? Probably quite a few.
M-O-T-M= Frank Lampard