Does victory over Blackburn indicate a Chelsea revival?
Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic (second left) broke the deadlock against Blackburn
By Sam Sheringham
at Stamford Bridge
One victory can hardly be said to constitute a revival, but there were signs in Saturday's 2-0 triumph over Blackburn that Chelsea, blown off course so spectacularly in recent weeks, may just be heading in the right direction again.
The win was only the Blues' second in 10 league games and although the performance was anything but perfect it may yet prove a crucial turning point in a season which was fast descending into meltdown.
Suddenly, the Blues looked a hungrier and more purposeful outfit, with Ashley Cole and Jose Bosingwa providing width in the final third and Frank Lampard probing busily behind Didier Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Florent Malouda.
When the desired early goal didn't materialise, Chelsea's play became a bit more frantic, but once Branislav Ivanovic had broken the deadlock in the second half, they began to show glimpses of the verve which won them the
League and FA Cup double last season
and helped them make such an electric start to this campaign.
In all, the Blues had 27 goal attempts to the visitors' three, with the final scoreline not fully reflective of their superiority.
It is not easy to close the gap but we have to believe we can do this. I don't know if it is possible but because we won last year, we want to do everything we can to be in the competition to the end.
After the game, boss Carlo Ancelotti said he was encouraged by the display but sounded a note of caution to anyone believing the Blues' bad patch is well and truly behind them.
"Today we showed much more intensity and more quality and we need to be happy for this," he told reporters.
"But our next game is away at Bolton and if we win that we can say definitely that the bad moment is over.
"It is a very good test for us. We are not at the same level we were at the beginning of the season but I think we will get there.
Drogba was also reluctant to get carried away after the victory.
"I think it's too early to say that we've turned the corner but I think if I in two or three games we are still winning, then we have turned the corner.
"The most important thing is to win games and today is a vital three points. Let's win four or five consecutive games and then we can talk about the title."
Ancelotti took positives from improved performances from senior players like Drogba, Michael Essien and Lampard, who have all been shadows of their former selves in recent weeks after battling back from injuries.
The Italian coach had even considered dropping Drogba and Essien for the Blackburn game after the impressive displays from youngsters Daniel Sturridge and Josh McEachran against Ipswich, but decided in the end that the more experienced pair's physical presence could be crucial to combat Rovers' direct approach.
Drogba, such a formidable force when his tail is up, still looked short of his best in the first half, when his hesitancy in front of goal allowed first Michel Salgado and then Gael Givet to dispossess him with saving tackles.
The Ivorian wasted a one-on-one opportunity with Blackburn keeper Paul Robinson after the break, but once Anelka had made the game safe with Chelsea's second goal, Drogba seemed to rediscover some of his self-belief and almost scored a third with a delightful chip that floated inches over the bar.
"Didier is very close to his best," added Ancelotti. "He played a good game for the team and it was an unselfish match for him.
"He is not the quickest player, but he is a good player because he has power, strength, ability and skill."
Meanwhile, Essien produced a typically dynamic display before, with the game safe, he was replaced by McEachran.
In his brief cameo, the 17-year-old midfielder showed enough neat touches and sensible passes to suggest that he could have an important role to play for the remainder of the season and beyond.
"It is very important that Josh is ready to play and he is good enough to play from the beginning," said Ancelotti. "He could put more competition in the squad."
The victory provided the psychological boost of lifting the champions back into the top four of the Premier League, seven points behind leaders Manchester City with a game in hand.
And with City, Manchester United and Tottenham still to visit Stamford Bridge this season, Ancelotti is refusing to discount his team's chances of a late charge for the title.
"It's a fantastic motivation for us," he said. "We are playing better, we know we have to play better again, but we have more confidence now.
"It is not easy to close the gap but we have to believe we can do this. I don't know if it is possible but because we won last year, we want to do everything we can to be in the competition to the end."
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