Chelsea 2-0 Blues

Last updated : 31 December 2005 By Brian Cartlidge

Hernan Crespo's eighth goal of the season, aided by a fine strike by Arjen Robben, confirmed three more points for Chelsea who march on relentlessly towards retaining their Premiership crown.

Steve Bruce, celebrating his 45th birthday today, was forced into making two changes from the side that had begun the home draw against Manchester United on Wednesday evening. Jamie Clapham was not risked and in came Julian Gray at left-back whilst on-loan Jiri Jarosik was ineligible against his present employers and his place was taken by Walter Pandiani. Because of injuries to other senior players, young winger Mat Birley was named amongst the Blues subs.

The hosts began much the brighter and midfielder Michael Essien had a fine dipping strike on five minutes which Maik Taylor did well to parry away.

Chelsea then forced three corners in two minutes but they could not break down Blues' resolute defending and on 19 minutes Blues themselves had a fine chance when a Jermaine Pennant free-kick was missed by everyone, but Stephen Clemence at the far post.

The Blues midfielder arrowed a fine shot towards goal, but William Gallas cleared the ball off the line.

Five minutes later and Emile Heskey outjumped Paulo Ferreira and unluckily saw his header beat Petr Cech, but the ball clipped the top of the net.

Those chances were enough to wake Chelsea from their festive slumber and a minute later they took the lead.

A fine crossfield movement involving Robben, Crespo and Joe Cole saw Robben whip across a ball into the area, Taylor could only parry the ball out into the gleeful path of Crespo, who tucked the ball home from eight yards.

Chelsea should have scored again 60 seconds later when a defensive mix-up by Martin Taylor and Kenny Cunningham saw Cole free to run into the box.

With just Maik Taylor to beat, the England midfielder squared to Crespo, who took too long to put in a strike and the ball was cleared much to the annoyance of Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho who kicked the advertising hoardings in frustration.

Crespo then forced another fine save from Taylor, before hitting the crossbar on 33 minutes from a deep Gallas cross.

The second goal was inevitable and two minutes before half-time Chelsea struck again.

Another fine counter-attack saw Eidur Gudjohnsen slide-rule a pass wide on the left to Robben, who took a touch into the area, before slotting home the ball across the body of Maik Taylor and into the far corner.

Blues were not out of contention so long as it remained 2-0 and on 52 minutes, Gudjohnsen was forced to clear the ball off his line after a header from Walter Pandiani was goalbound.

Substitute Olivier Tebily, on for the injured Matthew Upson, scrambled the ball off his line on 54 minutes and two minutes after that Maik Taylor again produced an excellent save from a Crespo left-footer.

Chelsea were unlucky not to have scored a third on 71 minutes when a fine header by captain John Terry was headed off the goal-line by Damien Johnson.

Gallas limped off with an apparent hamstring injury with five minutes remaining and Chelsea, who had already made three substitutions, finished the match with only ten men.

Blues now face Wigan at home on Monday afternoon with three points crucial in their battle to climb out of the relegation zone.