Frank Lampard and Andre Villas-Boas hope vital win at Blackburn can reignite title push

06 November 2011 08:27
It might not have been quite as significant as the 1-0 win at Ewood Park under Jose Mourinho, but the reaction of Andre Villas-Boas and Frank Lampard told you how close it came.

When Chelsea opened up an 11-point lead at the top against Blackburn in February 2005, and equalled Arsenal's Barclays Premier League record of eight successive clean sheets, a jubilant Mourinho marched his players to the away end and ordered each and every one to throw his shirt into the crowd.

It was typical Mourinho, and evidence he knew the title was in the bag.

Way back when: Jose Mourinho marches his jubilant players off at Ewood Park

Villas-Boas can scarcely be thinking along similar lines, after seeing Chelsea slip alarmingly off the pace, yet there was no mistaking the relevance he attached to a victory every bit as hard-fought as Mourinho's.

When the final whistle sounded, barely three minutes after Branislav Ivanovic headed a corner against his own bar, the Chelsea manager sank towards the turf and punched the air repeatedly with both fists.

It was a gesture that spoke volumes for the sense of relief in the Chelsea camp, and Lampard put it into words by describing why it could prove a turning point in a title challenge that was beginning to flag.

'We knew that, after two straight defeats, this was must-win in terms of keeping in touch with the two Manchester clubs,' said the Chelsea midfielder who settled the game with a stooping header from Ivanovic's 51st-minute cross.

Narrow victory: Frank Lampard jumps for joy after netting the only goal of the game

'We weren't thinking it would be all over if we lost, because we were 15 points behind last year and still got back to a position where we could have won it.

'You never actually write it off, but when you see how well the other teams are playing, particularly City, you don't want to give yourself that much of a mountain to climb.

'It's enough of a gap as it is, so this was a really big win. Hopefully it will get us back on track and help us go on a winning run. This means as much as the games where we play beautiful football and win four or five nil. I just hope it is a turning point for us, because the competition at the top is so fierce that you can't afford to drop too many points.

'We've got a huge home game with Liverpool coming next, so it will only be a turning point if we build on what we've done here and keep doing the right things.

Getting the lowdown: Andre Villas-Boas saw his side get back to winning ways after two successive Premier League defeats

'The belief hadn't gone, but the added pressure of those two defeats was on our shoulders, because we knew thata third at this stage of the season would leave us with so much to do. It was there, and we had to be strong to stand up to it. I think we've come through a test of character.'

There were suggestions Villas-Boas had reservations about Lampard's overall contribution, but he appears to have been won over.

'It is not right to say Frank was left out a couple of times earlier in the season,' he insisted. 'He was on the bench, like others have been, and there's nothing to it. He is a tremendous talent, who we believe in, and he is proving that with his performances. He has been outstanding this season.'

Steve Kean adopted an Arsene Wenger approach over the latest ploy from disgruntled fans to have him ousted from the manager's chair. They chartered a light aircraft pulling a banner that read 'Steve Kean Out', and it was constantly cheered and applauded as it buzzed overhead for much of the game.

Plane to see: The anti-Kean banner flies over Ewood Park

It was even shown, fleetingly, on the club's own in-house television screens. Yet Kean claimed he hadn't seen it.

'No, I didn't,' he said. 'I didn't see it, and I don't know what it said. I suppose you reach the stage where you have to accept this sort of thing is going to be part of the matchday routine. But we are staying solid as a group, and it is not affecting the players, staff or owners.

'The players tend to become a bit disappointed with it, because they are trying to put so much effort into winning games. I don't think any fan inside the ground would say we didn't deserve something from that game.'

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Source: Daily_Mail