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Bridge of sighs

Posted on 20 September 2009  - 12:00

The loss of Ledley King to injury and the denial of what appeared to be a clear penalty conspired against the team's attempt to overturn a 1-0 half-time deficit at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea recorded a somewhat flattering 3-0 victory on Sunday.

Bridge of sighs

The loss of Ledley King to injury and the denial of what appeared to be a clear penalty conspired against the team's attempt to overturn a 1-0 half-time deficit at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea recorded a somewhat flattering 3-0 victory on Sunday.

We actually finished with neither of the central defenders who started the game as Sebastien Bassong also fell victim to injury, but at a goal down Robbie Keane weaved into the area and was caught by Ricardo Carvalho. Play was waved on and Chelsea doubled their advantage shortly afterwards - adding insult to the two injuries with a third goal later on.

It was a bright, inventive start. Space was at a premium on a pitch that looked a little congested, but the team in white shirts quickly settled into a rhythm and began making in-roads into the home defences.

The initial skirmishes involved Bassong extending himself to make a neat interception from a Jose Bosingwa cross, before Didier Drogba stormed through leading to Carlo Cudicini saving with his legs without knowledge of the striker being flagged offside.

Wilson Palacios and Jermain Defoe combined to carve out a half-chance for Keane before Bosingwa rattled the crossbar with a speculative hit from 30 yards.

The team's attacking instincts then clicked into gear and on 11 minutes Palacios set Defoe free through the middle only for the striker to be denied by the legs of Cech. The goalkeeper was next called on to save a drilled shot from Tom Huddlestone, but he would have been able to do little about the next effort had it been on target - Jermaine Jenas smashing Aaron Lennon's pass only inches wide.

The offensive play was flowing in the direction of Cech's goal, but Chelsea served warning of the danger they possess on the counter when an speedy break led to an Anelka cross being headed wide by Lampard.

On 32 minutes the danger became a deficit when Drogba drilled in a low teasing cross from the right and Ashley Cole stole in at the far post to nod past Cudicini.

The game got a touch feisty as half-time neared, the antics of Drogba raising the temperature, while Michael Essien executed a superb tackle to stop Lennon in his tracks when he was homing in on goal at considerable speed.

The balance of play was probably with the home side as referee Mr Webb sounded the whistle for half-time, but over the course of the half it was Cech in the Chelsea goal who was the busier of the two keepers and there remained all to play for.

There was a big setback shortly after the re-start when King - who had been magnificent in marshalling our rearguard action - went to ground in obvious distress and was quickly replaced by Alan Hutton, with Corluka moved inside.

Chelsea appeared to take confidence from the reshuffle and attempted to capitalise on the loss of the resolute King.

Keane sped into the area on 54 minutes and was clearly clipped by Carvalho. Referee Mr Webb declined to award a penalty, leaving Robbie to ask why he was not booked himself if it was not so.

The sense of injustice was probably only increased on 57 minutes when Cudicini saved from Drogba but the loose ball was seized upon by Frank Lampard to cut back and Michael Ballack was on hand to bundle home.

A third was added with 63 minutes on the clock when Drogba seized on a long ball over the top. Corluka tussled with the striker but his challenge came off the foot of the Ivory Coast international and trickled past the advanced Cudicini.

There was nearly a reduction in the deficit when Palacios volleyed just wide from a knock-down from substitute Peter Crouch - who moments later blasted not far over the bar.

Cudicini squeezed a volley from the substitute Mikel just around the post at the second attempt before Bassong became a second casualty of the afternoon after being dragged to the ground by Nicolas Anelka and sustaining what looked like a shoulder or neck injury. The central defender was stretchered off and replaced by Niko Kranjcar.

While Chelsea were the stronger side in the second half, the scoreline was top-heavy and fortune certainly did not favour the travelling team - Crouch having a goal chalked off for offside in stoppage time.

It was one of those days.