CHELSEA manager Carlo Ancelotti warned his Premier League rivals that yesterday’s draw at Spurs signalled the end of the Blues’ blip.
Roman Pavlyuchenko’s first-half strike looked likely to condemn the champions to a fourth league defeat in seven games, before substitute Didier Drogba benefited from a goalkeeping howler by Heurelho Gomes with 20 minutes left.
Drogba then missed the chance to snatch all three points when he struck an injury-time penalty too close to Gomes, but despite that costly error, Ancelotti felt Chelsea’s second-half fightback signalled an end to their recent woes.
He said: “We didn’t lose confidence after the first-half. It was a good reaction in the second-half.
“We had more strength, more passion, more determination and we deserved to win. Our poor form is behind, but we have a very big test against Manchester United next.”
His skipper, John Terry, added: “You can lose or draw games. I think the fans appreciate that, but when they don’t see the passion, that’s what hurts. We could all admit that’s been missing over the last few weeks. We’re hopefully back now.”
Chelsea looked anything but back in a first-half largely dominated by the home side, who were unfortunate not to have more than Pavlyuchenko’s superbly crafted 15th minute opener to their credit.
When Jermain Defoe zipped a pass in the general direction of his strike partner there appeared little danger, but his first touch took him away from two defenders and his low shot gave Petr Cech no hope.
Chelsea were gifted a route back into the game when Drogba’s angled drive slipped through Gomes’ hands, before the Brazil international redeemed himself with the penalty save which preserved a point that his manager, Harry Redknapp, claimed as evidence of his side’s own title credentials.
He said: “We are as good a side as almost anybody. We can give anybody a game. We will only get stronger when our best players are back from injury.”
Hunt downs Blues
WOLVES piled further misery on bottom-of-the-table West Ham after their 1-0 win over Birmingham left Avram Grant’s struggling Hammers three points adrift at the foot of the Premier League. Midfielder Stephen Hunt stole in at the near post to tap home Sylvan Ebanks-Blake’s cross just before the break to hand Mick McCarthy’s side a crucial win. Bolton closed to within just one point of fifth-placed Tottenham after Stuart Holden’s dramatic late winner gave Owen Coyle’s men a 2-1 victory over Blackburn.
CHELSEA’S SPOT-KICK WOE
PENALTY taking is certainly an area of Chelsea’s game that could do with working on. Here are three other recent high-profile penalty calamities.
Dec 2009: Michael Ballack and Gael Kakuta both miss as Chelsea go out of the Carling Cup at the quarter-final stage up at Blackburn.
Dec 2009: Shay Given stops Frank Lampard’s late effort as Manchester City hang on to claim a 2-1 win.
Dec 2009: Lampard becomes only the third man to miss a penalty during regular time of an FA Cup final against Portsmouth.