Premier League - Chelsea overcome Blackpool

Mon, 07 Mar 21:58:00 2011

Frank Lampard scored twice as Chelsea continued their resurgence with a muscular 3-1 win at struggling Blackpool, edging the Blues closer towards a big say the Premier League title race.

Match Highlights:

Hot on the heels of their 2-1 comeback win against leaders Manchester United, Carlo Ancelotti’s side showed strength, guile and patience as they took an early lead through John Terry and withstood a plucky assault from the hosts before a quick-fire second-half double from Lampard put the tie to bed.

Blackpool rallied late on at Bloomfield Road, with the impressive Jason Puncheon pulling one back before a frantic closing spell that saw the hosts carve out a handful of good chances.

But Chelsea rode the final minutes - and their luck - as they closed out a win that puts them nine points behind United with a game in hand and a trip to Old Trafford to come: more tellingly, they are only two points shy of Manchester City in third, with a game in hand on them too.

Ian Holloway’s side, meanwhile, still loiter perilously close to the drop zone but can take heart from an impressive performance against the reigning champions, and the knowledge that Puncheon’s late goal keeps them 15th, level with West Brom on goal difference but above the Baggies because of more goals scored.

Chelsea started with the look of a side hungry to eat back at the points deficit to stuttering leaders United, Michael Essien flicking a header wide and Richard Kingson brave and alert to deny Dider Drogba after the goalless and largely disappointing Fernando Torres played him in.

And they took a deserved lead 20 minutes in when Blackpool paid the price for some slack marking at a Lampard corner, Terry ghosting in to power a low, unstoppable header past Kingson.

It looked like Chelsea may overrun the hosts, as Kingson again did well to deny Jose Bosingwa this time, who cut on to his left foot and sent a drive towards the top corner.

Blackpool seemed to be missing suspended duo Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell - as any side would miss their two most effective players - but, midway through the first half, something clicked for the Seasiders as Bosingwa in particular found himself exposed to the overlapping runs of Andy Reid, David Carney and livewire Puncheon.

Puncheon, on loan from Southampton and playing non-league football a few years back, was giving Chelsea a torrid time with his unpredictable movement, hitting the post with a low rasping effort that Petr Cech fingered on to the woodwork.

Terry made a good block from Carney, Ian Evatt’s cross-shot forced Cech to tip over and centre-half duo David Luiz and Terry had to be at their best to deal with a number of testing crosses.

The hosts were applauded off at half-time and continued to work hard in the second, with James Beattie hitting the deck somewhat easily on a couple of occasions as they used the direct approach.

But it was Chelsea who got the breakthrough as substitute Salomon Kalou - just on after Drogba picked up a knock - turned Evatt, who clumsily brought the Ivorian down: Lampard made no mistake from the spot, sending a now-injured Kingson the wrong way and slipping the ball into the bottom right.

That seemed to knock the stuffing out of Blackpool who were 3-0 down within two minutes, the rampant Kalou sending Lampard clean through with a delicate pass between the defenders: the England midfielder gobbled up his eighth goal in 12 games with a cool low finish with 25 minutes left and that appeared to be that.

The Tangerines had other ideas though and, as Chelsea eased off, they made for a manic final 10 minutes when the introductions of Matt Phillips and Brett Ormerod allowed them to play to their more typical 4-3-3 formation.

The fresh-legged duo combined with Beattie and Puncheon to great effect, Phillips firing a low drive inches wide before Puncheon netted from an almost identical position from a similar one-touch passing move.

With four minutes of normal time left it seemed like little more than a consolation - which ultimately it was - but the hosts should have at least pulled a second back when Ormerod saw the goal gaping but was denied by a last-gasp block from Terry.

After the visitors failed to clear the corner, Evatt spurned the chance to atone for his penalty boo-boo when he curled a finish past the stranded Cech but wide of the far post, while Terry and Cech appeared to suffer a communication breakdown as the former left a David Vaughan pass for the latter, with Beattie in the vicinity but too slow to convert from close range.

As it happened Chelsea were able to play the final seconds out but Blackpool - who have 32 points with nine games left - will be confident they can get the three wins needed to stay in the top flight, particularly when Adam and Campbell return.

Reda Maher / Eurosport

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