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The Camden Cad
Aug 24, 2004
North London
The Chelsea rehabilitation continues, but the road to recovery is never easy. This, the fourth consecutive win since their violation at the hands of Manchester United, takes them to second place in the table, but they were certainly made to work for it by a Middlesbrough side who were determined, gritty and resolutely unambitious. Only when Salomon Kalou opened the scoring just before the hour did Gareth Southgate abandon his policy of containment and replace it with a late bid for his first win in almost three months. It didn't work. Plan B was no more successful than Plan A.

The Teesiders' caution meant a scrappy first half for the xx,xxx who had braved a miserably wet night in West London, the only incident of note an unsavoury clash between Luis Felipe Scolari and the Middlesbrough assistant manager Malcolm Crosby. Scolari appeared to gesture an imaginary yellow card at referee Lee Probert, prompting a volley of abuse from Gareth Southagte's number two. As tempers frayed, fourth official Steve Bennett stepped in to calm it all down. Whatever he said was obviously ignored by Scolari who tried to force his way through a bundle of security guards to get at his tormentor at half-time.

With his attempts on Crosby as successful as Chelsea's on Ross Turnbull's goal, a change was due and it came in the form of Didier Drogba, whose last decent appearance came at some point in 2006. With Anelka slotting back to the right-wing in support, the wantaway Ivorian had a perfect chance to prove his worth, but once again he couldn't take it. There were signs of a recovery. A darting run here, a nice string of passes there, but the potency that marked him out as one of the most complete strikers of the last decade is still nowhere to be seen. Perhaps he just needs a break. A nice deflection or a lucky decision from the officials

Salomon Kalou must have been wondering if it was his unlucky day. First he whipped a header off John Terry's head, then he cleared Alex's goalbound header off the line. With almost an hour gone, he was not going to be a popular man in the dressing room at full-time. But the fates had a higher opinion of Kalou than his fuming team-mates. David Wheater's weak clearance fell directly into his path and he smashed it home from close range, before taking advantage of Turnbull's appalling misjudgement of a corner to head into an empty net for a second. In between those strikes, it must be pointed out, he ran onto a deflection and, with the goal at his mercy, kicked his own supporting leg out from under him and fell over. It was a mixed night for the young man.

As always at Stamford Bridge, the loudest cheer came towards the end when news of Mido's equaliser against Liverpool flashed up on the scoreboard. The Egyptian striker may have failed to win over the Middlesbrough fans in his short stay at the Riverside, but his first outing for Steve Bruce made him a firm favourite at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea might not be in top gear, but they've stretched ahead of their bitter enemies in the North-West and that, for the moment, will do Scolari just nicely.

Match Stats

Crowd -
Yellow Cards - Riggott, Shawkey (Middlesbrough)
Red Cards -
Chelsea -
Petr Cech 7, Ashley Cole 6, Frank Lampard 7, John Obi Mikel 7, Michael Ballack 7, Florent Malouda 6 (Didier Drogba 6, 45th), Jose Bosingwa 7, Salomon Kalou 7 (Deco 6, 82nd), John Terry 7, Alex 8, Nicolas Anelka 7 (Miroslav Stoch, 88th)
Middlesbrough -
Ross Turnbull 6, Gary O'Neil 6, Chris Riggott 7, Emanuel Pogatetz 6, Mohamed Shawkey 6 (Sanli Tuncay 6, 64th), Marlon King 5 (Alfonso Alves 6, 64th), Stewart Downing 6, Matthew Bates 6, Adam Johnson 7, Tony McMahon 7, David Wheater 7