Chelsea 2 Blues 0 .. Match Report

Last updated : 31 January 2005 By Richard Barker

Whilst Jose Mourinho had the luxury of resting players and bringing top international players in to replace them as Chelsea continued their quest for 'The Quadruple', Blues were down to the absolute bare bones, and first half especially, it showed.

With Kenny Cunningham and Salfi Diao injured and Damien Johnson suspended, Blues were already forced into three changes from the team that lost to Fulham last week. Add to these the long-term absentees such as David Dunn, Muzzy Izzet and Stan Lazaridis, and the midfield absolutely picked itself. Darren Anderton, Darren Carter, Stephen Clemence and Julian Gray were the only fit and available midfielders, and so that's how they lined up from right to left. At the back, Matthew Upson returned from suspension to replace Cunningham alongside Martin Taylor, whilst up front there was the surprise inclusion of Robbie Blake alongside Emile Heskey. This meant Clinton Morrison dropped to a substitutes bench that included Finnish striker Njazi Kuqi.

Blues started like they were absolutely scared to death. They barely touched the ball in the opening five minutes, and when they did, they gave it straight back to Chelsea. Damien Duff was denied by a good save by Maik Taylor, but from the resulting corner, it was 1-0. Duff crossed and German defender Robert Huth rised unchallenged to power a header home.

If it was hoped that this would wake Blues up, well, it never happened. Chelsea were rampant, with Duff in particular causing all sorts of problems for Blues. The Irish international again went close with a low drive across the face of goal and Blues looked like they could be dead and buried by half-time. Their cause wasn't helped when Martin Taylor - who had started well again - had to limp off to be replaced by Olivier Tebily. Tebily moved to right-back, and former Chelsea man Mario Melchiot moved into the centre.

Eventually Blues began to find their feet slightly, and Heskey headed wide and Anderton tested Carlo Cudicini from long range. In truth, neither were particularly threatening efforts, and Chelsea continued to dominate. Duff had another chance deflected wide, and from the corner the same combination that led to the first goal combined again, but with Huth hitting the crossbar on this occasion.

When half-time came, it was a relief for Blues, who had barely shown anything during the opening 45 minutes, and who were lucky to still be in the game. Chelsea obviously felt sorry for Blues, and so took Duff off. The only problem was that they brought Arjen Robben on.

Blake had been anonymous in the first half, but the former Burnley man took the game by the scruff of the neck in the second half, and was a real influence in a much better Blues performance. Anderton's far post volley was tipped over the bar by Cudicini, before the same player had a powerful drive blocked by John Terry - perhaps by John Terry's hand. Blake himself then fired just wide after good work by Jamie Clapham, and Blues were very much back in the game.

Robben was wasteful on a couple of occasions as Chelsea tried to capitalise on Blues' attacking mentality now with counter-attacks. It was still Blake who was influencing the game at the other end though, from a deeper role, and he was unlucky not to loop a header over Cudicini after some quick thinking following a poor back header from Terry. When Blake dropped deeper in this game, he was Dunn-esque at times, showing some good skills, and the ability to run at defenders and pick some good passes. It was very promising, but I'd say that he's wasted as a second striker, and he needs to play in a Dunn role, wide of midfield, with the opportunity to link up with two front men.

Chelsea has strengthened their team with their substitutes, with Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard joining Robben from the bench. Maik Taylor saved well from Lampard, but with 10 minutes to go the England midfielder created Chelsea's second. The ball was cleared from a corner, but Terry stayed forward. Lampard picked out his England colleague with a deep cross, and Terry powered the header back across Taylor into the far corner. That was that for the game now.

Having made all their substitutions, Chelsea took advantage of their two-goal cushion to bring the injured Huth off, and so Blues were up against 10 men for the last 10 minutes. In fairness, they kept going, and substitutes Morrison and Dwight Yorke both caused a few problems, and both had some chances - Morrison getting the ball caught under his feet when well placed a couple of times, and Yorke with a good header and a low drive. Clapham too went close with a free-kick.

In the end though, Blues failed to take any of their chances, and it was Chelsea who went into the hat/velvet bag for the fifth round draw. Whilst a lot will be made of Chelsea leaving key players out, Blues were really and truly down to the bare bones, and they can be pleased with their second half performance and the chances they created. Blake's performance was also a positive, as were the displays of so-called 'fringe' players such as Anderton and Clapham. The problem Blues have at the moment though, is that these fringe players are all they have, and unless some players arrive at the club soon, it could be a tricky few months.