Blackburn Rovers 1 Chelsea 2


BLACKBURN Rovers succumbed to a late winner from Premier League champions Chelsea despite leading in front of their prospective new owners at Ewood Park this afternoon.

Rovers went ahead through Benjani but Nicolas Anelka levelled before half time and Branislav Ivanovic made it 2-1 with six minutes left.

Rovers’ potential new owners, Balaji and Venkatesh Rao of Indian poultry giants Venky’s, took their seats in the directors’ box for the game, which was preceded by a touching minute’s applause for club legend Ronnie Clayton, who died yesterday.

The result – which leaves Sam Allardyce’s men still only one place above the relegation zone – was particularly tough on Rovers, who played with guile and creativity and could have been 3-0 ahead by the time the Blues drew level.


Chelsea started confidently enough early on, zipping the ball around in the midfield and looking every bit a side who had scored 27 goals in their nine league games.

But after surviving a scary moment when Ivanovic got free on the right and his fine cross just eluded Didier Drogba, it was Blackburn who dominated the first half-hour.

And it was not down to the expected aerial bombardment – which Ivanovic was recalled to counter. Rovers, playing in front of their prospective new owners from Indian business group Venky’s simply outplayed and outpassed the leaders before the break.

Brett Emerton had the first sight of goal when he ran through but he did not have the pace to outstrip the visiting defence and was also unable to find Benjani.

Nicolas Anelka
Nicolas Anelka

Mame Diouf was then denied by an excellent sliding tackle by John Terry, and the same player saw his well-disguised lob just about kept out by the desperate figure of Petr Cech as the big keeper slipped while re-adjusting his feet.

But the chances kept coming and Benjani, making his first Premier League start for Rovers, went close after a powerful run.

El-Hadji Diouf provided the main spark on the left flank with a series of teasing crosses and it was one such cross that led to the opening goal.

The impressive El-Hadji Diouf – scorer of Blackburn’s equaliser in the same fixture last season – curled in an an inviting inswinging centre from the left and Benjani got ahead of Terry to send an excellent header across Cech and into the corner.

It was the first league goal Carlo Ancelotti’s side had conceded in the first half this season and was almost followed by the second moments later.

El-Hadji Diouf was again the provider as Cech had to stretch every part of his enormous frame to prevent Mame Diouf nodding the ball home.

Chelsea finally started to settle and Michael Essien went close with an improvised, toe-poked effort from edge of the box.

And Anelka, who has scored 11 goals in 15 games against Rovers, drew the Londoners level when Cech’s pin-point punt found Malouda.

Branislav Ivanovic
Branislav Ivanovic

His delicious cross-field pass was nodded invitingly back into the path of Anelka, who guided the ball past Paul Robinson first time.

That was the crucial moment in the match and gave Chelsea the platform for a much-improved second half.

Both sides went all out for a winner after the interval but neither team were able to exert any long spells of dominance.

Ashley Cole screwed a shot wide after good work by Malouda and Rovers keeper Robinson made a smart stop from Zhirkov’s well-struck first-time effort.

Mame Diouf was a whisker away from restoring Blackburn’s lead but could not turn home substitute Jason Roberts’s clever flick from Morten-Gamst Pedersen’s dangerous free-kick.

Roberts, whose strength and ability to hold the ball up came to the fore as the second half wore on, should have put Rovers ahead but shot narrowly wide after muscling his way into the box.

At the other end, Blues substitute Daniel Sturridge smashed a vicious, curling effort just wide after a jinking run.

But Ivanovic – who was about to replaced by Paulo Ferreira – leapt to head home the winner from Zhirkov’s wonderful floated cross to secure Chelsea’s first away victory in the league in three matches.

It was particularly cruel on Rovers, whose performance was a fitting tribute to former player Ronnie Clayton who died on Friday and whose contribution was recognised by a minute’s applause before kick-off.

Blackburn and England footballer Ronnie Clayton dies


Former Blackburn Rovers and England footballer Ronnie Clayton has died at the age of 76.

Preston-born Clayton’s career at Blackburn spanned two decades and he made 35 appearances for England, many as skipper.

Ronnie Clayton
Ronnie Clayton

Blackburn were Clayton’s only club side and chairman John Williams told their website: “No-one had a bad word for Ronnie and he will be sadly missed.”

The club will pay its respects before Saturday’s home game against Chelsea.

Described as an outstanding wing half, Clayton was rated as one of the best England players of his generation.

“Ronnie was not only a wonderful servant and ambassador for the club, he was also one of the most popular men ever to be associated with Rovers, ” added Williams.

Ronnie Clayton
Ronnie Clayton

“Our deepest sympathies go out to his dear wife Val and all his family at this saddest of times,” he added.

The one-club man, who made 665 appearances for Rovers between 1951 and 1969, passed away in the Royal Blackburn Hospital.

Rovers have said they will pay their respects before tomorrow afternoon’s Premier League clash with Chelsea.

Ronnie, a right-half, made his debut against Queens Park Rangers in April 1951 and still lies second in the all-time list of leading appearance-makers for the club.

He helped them win promotion to the First Division in 1958 and was captain as Rovers reached the FA Cup final at Wembley in 1960.

Blackburn Rovers shirt 1960
Blackburn Rovers shirt 1960

He won 35 England caps and became the first Rovers player since Bob Crompton to captain his country.

During his Rovers career he ran a newsagent’s shop and, after a short spell as player manager of Morecambe, worked as an area manager for tyre company ATS.