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Monday, September 27, 2004 

Middlesbrough 0 - Chelsea 1

Didier Drogba won the points with a goal ten minutes from time, but Chelsea had to endure 80 minutes of domination with no goals before sealing an excellent away win.
Chelsea quickly got into the possession game, and frustrated Boro kept giving the ball away much to the anger of the below capacity crowd.

Alexey Smertin chased a cleared Drogba cross and tricked his way back into the area from wide to shoot left-footed and force Mark Schwarzer to save early on. There were on-target if inconsequential efforts from Eidur Gudjohnsen and Frank Lampard.

Smertin won the ball and broke well but his link-up with free man Drogba wasn’t spot on and a good position was wasted. Chelsea won two corners and from the second John Terry hammered a shot which was bravely blocked. Ten minutes had gone and there was only one team on the park.

Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink had to leave the field after Terry had caught him in the face with a challenge. Jimmy angrily waved away his old captain’s apologies. Boro were down to ten men and Chelsea continued to dominate. Drogba and Damien Duff both went close. Fifteen minutes gone.

Hasselbaink returned in the 21st minute by which time Smertin had driven a snap shot which Schwarzer was late down to and could only parry, Colin Cooper hurriedly clearing from the in-coming Gudjohnsen. A minute later Drogba just failed to meet a tantalising Duff cross.

Middlesbrough’s one spell in Chelsea’s half, during which Bolo Zenden won a free-kick off Paulo Ferreira and Hasselbaink crashed it into the wall, finished with Terry chipping a ball over Boro’s defence which Shwarzer blocked at full stretch at Drogba’s feet and then had to chase to kick away from the forward outside the area. Soon Drogba was just unable to reach another volleyed Duff cross, but the over-exuberant Blues were conceding too many free-kicks, and another Hasselbaink effort hit Chelsea’s wall.

From the rebound Drogba set up a counter which finished in Chelsea’s free-kick. Lampard mis-hit it, but Drogba turned on the loose ball and crashed it against the bar from 15 yards. William Gallas snatched the rebound over. Half an hour gone.

Boro were stretched. Ray Parlour was stretchered off having turned his knee in a challenge with Gallas. Joseph Desire Job replaced him ten minutes before half-time, and Boro switched to a 4-3-3 shape similar to Chelsea’s.

Chelsea’s 4-3-3 involved Gudjohnsen playing near Drogba than in previous games leaving Ferreira to work the right flank more. Ferreira hit several good crosses including one four minutes before half-time that the flying Drogba got to despite the defenders in his way but just couldn’t turn in.

Hasselbaink kicked off the second-half wearing the absent Ugo Ehiogu’s shirt because of blood down his own.

More dictating of possession for Chelsea, however, threatened penetration less, and Boro with their 4-3-3 working better got more involved. Smertin was booked for dragging back Zenden when beaten, and was lucky to escape further trouble when doing the same to Hasselbaink. A Stuart Parnaby long-range effort hit Terry somewhere between chest and bicep causing Boro screams for a penalty, and even though Drogba broke away to win a corner as he closed in on goal, it was substitution time.

Tiago and Mateja Kezman replaced Smertin and Gudjohnsen. At the same time Stewart Downing came on from limping Job. Sixty-five minutes gone.

Threat was restored. Gallas won a corner, Lampard forced a save, Kezman broke behind lines but pulled his cross too deep, Drogba headed wide from another excellent Duff cross and Tiago had a shot blocked by Gareth Southgate. When Boro did make ground, Petr Cech caught Downing’s cross one-handed with wonderful panache.

With ten minutes left Ferreira won a free-kick wide on the right off Franck Queudrue, Lampard pulled it low and square when everone was waiting for a high cross and Drogba slammed the ball in low to Schwarzer’s left from 15 yards. He now has four goals this season.

Robert Huth was sent on for Duff with three minutes left and joined Claude Makelele in central midfield.

Chelsea finished with eight shots on target and none against. Only one goal has been conceded in eight games. Something is going right.

source: chelseafc.com.

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