Solitary goal helps champions to narrow win as they rest key players ahead of crunch Champions League tie with Manchester United
Chelsea warmed up for their Champions League clash with Manchester United with a 1-0 win over Wigan Athletic at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.
The champions should have opened the scoring in the first minute as Didier Drogba powered down the right flank. As he approached the byline he cut the ball back towards the edge of the box where Frank Lampard was arriving unmarked. Lampard struck it first time but scuffed his shot and it limped past the left hand post, Ramires tried to keep it alive but couldn’t get it under control and the ball went out for a goal kick.
Drogba was involved in Chelsea’s next opportunity, he collected the ball facing his own goal high in the Wigan half before turning and playing the ball forward for Florent Malouda. The Frenchman had made a run in between the Wigan central defenders and Drogba’s pass was good, releasing Malouda and allowing him to progress into the penalty area. He advanced into a shooting position but his attempt on goal was poor, as he tried to shoot across Ali Al-Habsi but sent his strike straight at the Wigan goalkeeper who made a routine stop.
Wigan got their first chance of the game through a set piece as Ashley Cole brought down his man high in his own half. The visitors packed the penalty area as Ben Watson stood over the dead ball but his delivery was poor as he sent his cross beyond the men lining up at the back post and straight out for a Chelsea goal kick.
Despite this mishap, Wigan grew in confidence as the game went on and enjoyed a good spell of possession in the Chelsea half with 23 minutes played. They worked the ball across the pitch before feeding the ball forwards for Hugo Rodallega. David Luiz took a risk and tried to intercept the pass but Rodallega shielded the ball well and got goalside of the Brazilian defender. Luiz did well to recover, and forced Rodallega to check back onto his left foot before the Columbian forward went for goal. His strike was blocked by Luiz and the ball ballooned over the crossbar.
Chelsea struggled to replicate their early fluency but unlocked the Wigan defence with a long ball launched forward by Petr Cech. His clearance sailed deep into the opposition half and was flicked on by Drogba towards Malouda who was darting into the right hand side of the box. He went for goal with a first time effort and Al-Habsi made a decent stop from close range to deny the winger.
Before the half was up Drogba engineered a great chance with a brilliant piece of individual skill. Receiving the ball on the edge of the Wigan penalty area, he skipped past his marker and into the left hand side of the penalty area. He went for goal with a left footed strike, but it flashed wide at the near post.
The second half started with Chelsea pressing forward in search of a goal to break the deadlock. Lampard, captaining the side in John Terry’s absence, came close with a long range effort, turning to find space; the Englishman tried to pick his spot and went for the far corner with a curling effort. Al-Habsi looked to be struggling to reach it, but the ball curled just wide of his left-hand post.
Both managers decided to freshen things up with 30 minutes left to play, Roberto Martinez opted to make a double substitution, withdrawing Charles N’Zogbia and the unhappy Rodallega in favour of Franco Di Santo and Conor Sammon. Carlo Ancelotti took off Nicolas Anelka and replaced him with Fernando Torres.
Chelsea opened the scoring within a few minutes of these changes and it was a scrappy goal for the champions. Drogba took a corner from the right flank and Torres challenged Al-Habsi and the 'keeper spilled the ball. Branislav Ivanovic reacted quickest and hooked the ball goalwards, this attempt was blocked but it fell to Malouda who managed to make a full connection with the ball and it zipped through a host of bodies and squirmed into the back of the net.
The champions nearly doubled their advantage soon after as they burst free on the counter. Drogba poked the ball past the oncoming defender and the space opened up ahead of him. He raced down the left flank and spotted Torres free at the back post, he slid the ball across the box for the Spaniard but Torres couldn’t find the finish to open his account for Chelsea, sending the ball wide of the target.
Torres spurned a few more opportunities in the dying moments of the game, but Chelsea held on to keep a clean sheet and earn three points that put Wigan further adrift at the bottom of the Premier League table.
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