Belfast Telegraph

Zhirkov set for starring Blues role

Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti insists Russian Yury Zhirkov will play a crucial part in his side's Barclays Premier League title defence after his wonder show stole the points at Blackburn.

Ancelotti relished Zhirkov's work to provide the cross from which Branislav Ivanovic could hardly miss, heading home in a match Ancelotti admitted his side were "lucky" to win.

The Italian, after Chelsea's 2-1 victory at Ewood Park, said: "The goal at Spartak Moscow obviously improved his confidence. He is playing continuously now so he is showing some good football and he is working for the team."

He added: "He was consistent last week against Wolves and he was consistent again today. Last season he showed he was ready when he replaced Ashley Cole. He is a very efficient player and I think he has a future."

Zhirkov's heroics to set up the winner for Ivanovic came less than a minute after the home side should have wrapped up the points themselves with substitute Jason Roberts missing a sitter at the other end.

Rovers had failed to make the most of their series of first-half chances against the strangely flat champions, with Benjani Mwaruwari's headed opener all they had to show for their efforts.

And Rovers boss Sam Allardyce was left to reflect on three more points lost for his struggling side who continue to put in solid performances without managing to get anything from them.

Describing Ivanovic's goal as "the ultimate kick in the teeth", Allardyce added: "The only positive we can take out of this is to tell the players to continue at this level and the results will take care of themselves.

"Unfortunately it leaves us in a very dangerous position at this stage of the season. Our performances are good but the points are not good enough. I just hope it doesn't knock the lads' confidence too much."


From Belfast Telegraph