Belfast Telegraph

Old guard rescue lame Chelsea

Blackpool 1 Chelsea 3: If Chelsea are to mount a belated defence of their Barclays Premier League title, they will have to play a lot better than they did at lowly Blackpool.

But crucially Carlo Ancelotti's side showed they can still win without hitting top gear.

January's £50million transfer Fernando Torres may have drawn yet another blank in his fifth match since joining from Liverpool, but fortunately for the Blues they did not need his goals.

There will come a time in the run-in when the Spain striker will have to produce the goods if they are to have a chance of reeling in Manchester United's nine-point advantage, even with a match in hand.

But at Bloomfield Road it was Chelsea's tried and tested players who did the job, with Frank Lampard scoring twice in the second half after captain John Terry had given them the lead before the interval.

Jason Puncheon's late goal caused a few wobbles in the visitors defence, but the Stamford Bridge side had enough experience to ensure there were no slip-ups.

The scoreline may have looked comfortable for Chelsea but, like many visitors to the seaside this season, they found themselves on the back foot for long periods in the first half.

David Carney, on his first appearance for almost a month, had a productive 45 minutes down the left wing as Jose Bosingwa found himself turned inside-out on several occasions.

The Australian tried to test Petr Cech early on, cutting the ball back on to his right foot, but could only curl a shot straight at the Chelsea goalkeeper.

Minutes later he found himself clear in the area after Bosingwa failed to win possession but opted not to shoot, mis-placed his pass and the opportunity was lost.

Blackpool looked far more the inventive team, with Chelsea's front two of Didier Drogba and Torres — still to open his account for his new club after 406 goalless minutes of action — again failing to impress as a partnership.

However, the hosts could not make their early possession tell and Seasiders manager Ian Holloway would have been fuming with the manner in which his side conceded the opening goal against the run of play.

When Lampard swung over a 20th-minute right-wing corner, Terry easily slipped his marker to head home the simplest of chances.

The visitors briefly threatened to press home the advantage, with Bosingwa forcing Richard Kingson into a fingertip save with a left-footed shot from the right angle of the penalty area, but it was not long before Blackpool resumed control.

They were almost gifted an equaliser in the 33rd minute when Puncheon found space in the inside-right channel to skip past David Luiz and shoot low at Cech, who let the ball slip through his fingers and was relieved to see it bounce off a post.

The Czech goalkeeper was only slightly more convincing when he just managed to get a fingertip on Ian Evatt's cross-shot to help it over the crossbar.

Chelsea finished the half as they had started it, under pressure, although Ramires' long-range effort had Kingson diving to his right to palm his shot behind in added time.

The ineffective Drogba lasted less than 10 minutes of the second half before he fell under a challenge from former Rangers striker James Beattie in the Chelsea penalty area and was replaced by Solomon Kalou.

More by luck than invention the substitution provided the visitors the spark which they had been missing for most of the game.

Within seven minutes of coming on, Kalou won a penalty when Evatt felled him in the box, allowing Lampard to put his side in the comfort zone from the spot.

Four minutes later the England midfielder slotted home his fourth goal in as many matches after Kalou again provided the through-ball.

As if things were not bad enough for Blackpool, Kingson then had to go off injured and be replaced by Mark Halstead.

With nine minutes to go, sub Matt Phillips should have reduced the deficit when sent racing clear by Keith Southern, but he flashed a shot wide of Cech's far post.

Puncheon succeeded where his team-mate had failed from a similar position in the 86th minute, but it did nothing to ease Blackpool's growing worries.

They have won only once in the last nine matches and have been sucked into a relegation battle, just two points above the bottom three.

Belfast Telegraph

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