Blues unite to beat Boro
Chelsea put a disruptive few days behind them to record a 2-0 victory against Middlesbrough.
Last Updated: 20/10/07 8:08pm
Chelsea put a disruptive few days behind them to record a 2-0 victory against Middlesbrough at the Riverside Stadium.
Didier Drogba's midweek revelations threatened to disrupt their recent form, but Avram Grant's men put in a convincing display.
Ironically it was the Ivorian striker that gave The Blues the lead after he dispatched coolly following a clever one-two with Frank Lampard.
Gareth Southgate's side battled hard and Mido came within inches of levelling before half-time.
But Chelsea wrapped up the points on 56 minutes courtesy of Alex's thunderous 30-yard free-kick.
Drogba's comments did not cost him his place as he returned from suspension in one of five changes to a side robbed of England duo John Terry and Ashley Cole through injury.
If he felt the need to further re-affirm his commitment - for now at least - to his club, he could hardly have done it in any more stylish fashion.
Having made himself available for Florent Malouda's pass, he laid it off to Lampard in an instant and span away for the return before slotting a left-foot shot past the stranded Mark Schwarzer.
It was perhaps fitting that it was he and England scapegoat Lampard who carved Boro open after a difficult couple of weeks for both men.
Chelsea looked capable of opening up Boro almost at will - Jonathan Woodgate had to hack away a Drogba cross before it reached Lampard, and the Ivory Coast front man curled a 33rd-minute free-kick into the side-netting.
Mido might already have dragged his side back level on 17 minutes when he headed towards goal from Gary O'Neil's right-wing cross - but Petr Cech saved at the second attempt.
Clear-cut chances were a rarity despite impressive displays from O'Neil and Tuncay Sanli as they attempted to support the lone front man.
Alex, deputising for Terry, found Mido a handful in the air - but the Blues otherwise defended manfully as Boro delivered a series of balls into the box.
The invention of Drogba and Joe Cole - with Lampard pulling the strings - served as a constant reminder of the danger at the other end.
Mido forced a solid save from Cech with a glancing 49th-minute header from Stewart Downing's cross - and the England midfielder was appealing in vain for a penalty soon afterwards when his cross was blocked by John Obi Mikel, who swiftly indicated the ball had hit his chest.
But then Fabio Rochemback, incensed at not being awarded a free-kick, gave referee Mark Halsey the opportunity to award one for a foul on Michael Essien 35 yards out.
The home fans were still venting their fury when Lampard tapped the ball sideways for Alex to blast a swerving shot into the top corner - with Schwarzer clutching at thin air.
From that point on, Boro were never really in the game as Chelsea dominated.
Malouda and Lampard - the Englishman curled an 83rd-minute free-kick just wide - both went close as Boro found themselves pinned back deep inside their own half, although O'Neil passed up a glorious chance to reduce the deficit three minutes from time.
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