TWICE Jose Mourinho led Chelsea to the Premier League title; this year he appears to have knocked the trophy from his former team’s grasp.
The Blues travelled to Ewood Park desperate to show they had recovered from the midweek blow of a Champions League exit to Mourinho’s Inter Milan and regain their place at the top of the table.
But despite Didier Drogba’s early goal they were held by inferior opponents and, for the first time since the season’s second weekend, meekly surrendered their place in the top two.
El-Hadji Diouf’s header denied Chelsea a victory made all the more important by the wins earned by title rivals Manchester United and Arsenal in the previous 24 hours. Carlo Ancelotti’s men have a game in hand, but even if they win that they would still be a point behind leaders United. From being in charge of their own fate, Chelsea are suddenly at the mercy of others.
“It will be more difficult now to win the title but it’s not impossible,” said Ancelotti. “We are disappointed because I think we lost two points here, and important points.
“We had prepared well for the game, we had tried to win to cancel out the game against Inter and for one hour we did well. It’s not an easy moment for us and we have to maintain our confidence and our composure. Manchester United are now top of the league and we have to run more and do better and leave this behind us as soon as possible.” Chelsea’s indifferent form has seen them win four and lose four of their last nine games, but three points seemed to be on the way when Nicolas Anelka hared down the right and teed up Drogba’s 28th of the season. Florent Malouda stung Jason Brown’s palms as the visitors attempted to press home their advantage before the interval.
But Yuri Zhirkov had to clear off the line from Rovers defender Christopher Samba before Diouf out-jumped Paulo Ferreira to head home Michel Salgado’s deep right-wing cross in the 70th minute.