Blackpool in the Premier League 10 years on: No disgrace in defeat against Chelsea

It’s 10 years since Blackpool graced the top-flight and we’re retelling the story week-by-week of that sensational season in the big time.

Friday, 5th March 2021, 3:00 pm

A decade ago, Chelsea came to Bloomfield Road on a Monday evening and, as STEVE CANAVAN reported at the time, ran out 3-1 winners….

Given that most Blackpool folk have spent the week mulling over how many Chelsea would win by, this was a moral victory.

The Seasiders thoroughly deserved their goal four minutes from the end, which, fittingly, preserved their terrific record of scoring in every Premier League home game.

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Jason Puncheon scores Blackpool's goal against Chelsea
Jason Puncheon scores Blackpool's goal against Chelsea

Granted, that means little when you need results to stay in the division, but it is testament to how well Pool have played since 3pm on the first afternoon back in August at Wigan.

Here, they were unfortunate to meet a Chelsea side getting back to full strength after a horrible and uncharacteristic mid-season wobble, and given renewed hope of a second successive title by Manchester United’s recent slump.

No matter how good Chelsea are, the fact is it wasn’t until a soft penalty decision midway through the second half that the game swung decisively in the champions’ favour.

Until then, Pool were very much in it and unfortunate to be behind at the break for starters, after a great first-half performance.

They would have gone in 1-1 had Petr Cech not been lucky to get away with tipping Jason Puncheon’s shot on to the post.

Even towards the end, with Chelsea 3-0 up and cruising, Pool weren’t prepared to wave the white flag and drop to their knees like some might have done.

Puncheon scored a cracker with four minutes left, and had Brett Ormerod or Ian Evatt converted late chances, Chelsea might have been the victim of the mother of all comebacks.

Alas it wasn’t to be but there is no shame in that – after all, this is Chelsea we are talking about.

Just listening to the PA announcer reading out Chelsea’s team should have come with a warning.

It was frightening. Drogba, Torres, Lampard, Cole, Terry, Essien ... the big names kept on coming.

Such is the strength of Chelsea’s squad, they could afford to leave Malouda, Kalou and Anelka on the bench. It almost didn’t seem fair.

Blackpool, meanwhile, fielded a rather unfamiliar line-up, Ian Holloway having to change things in the absence of the suspended Charlie Adam and DJ Campbell, and the unwell Craig Cathcart.

It meant David Carney, Andy Reid and Puncheon got a chance. Stephen Crainey also returned, a welcome sight indeed.

Holloway gave Chelsea plenty of respect with his formation with Keith Southern and David Vaughan instructed to sit in front of the back four.

However, the boss still played three up front, Carney and Puncheon either side of James Beattie, with Reid tucked behind.

After an understandably shaky start, it worked well.

Carney hit an early shot, then Richard Kingson made a lovely Charlie Chaplin-style save when Didier Drogba broke through – the keeper miskicking the ball while simultaneously trapping it between his legs and falling to the floor. Kingson, though, hurt himself in the process and later had to come off.

Mind you he might have wished he’d come off there and then as on 20 minutes, Chelsea scored an opener that was as simple as they come.

Frank Lampard corner, John Terry lost his marker and nodded in from six yards.

It was a similar story to Stamford Bridge at this point, Pool struggling to cope with the aerial power of the Blues.

After Kingson pushed Jose Bosingwa’s curling effort over, the Seasiders managed to get a foothold in the game and came close to equalising on 33 minutes when they struck the woodwork.

Puncheon strode past David Luiz as if he wasn’t there and let fly. Cech should have saved comfortably but was mighty fortunate to see his attempted tip behind rebound off the post.

Chelsea suddenly panicked; Carney broke clear but his shot was blocked, then Evatt, of all people, forced Cech to tip behind his part cross, part shot.

This was good, a bit like the little kid at school sneaking up behind the class bully and whacking him on the head with a ruler.

All the while Carlo Ancelotti watched from the sidelines with the same expression.

It’s as if he’s being forced to witness an exceptionally bad television programme: no matter whether his team scores or concedes, he manages to look cheesed off.

One thing I’ll say is that Chelsea’s players aren’t as tough as their boss.

I’ve never seen so many big lads at the peak of their physical powers collapse to the floor at the slightest of contact.

Fortunately though, the poor dears seemed to be okay after the briefest spot of treatment from a physio who must be one of the most overworked in British football.

Drogba was the exception, the Ivory Coast striker having to come off after a challenge from James Beattie.

It was such a touching, dramatic performance that Ancelotti made him wait a good five minutes before bringing on a replacement – Salomon Kalou entering the fray in the 55th minute.

As it turned out Drogba’s bad back did for Pool, because Kalou turned the game.

On 62 minutes, the frontman collapsed under the challenge of Evatt inside the area.

Evatt argued he got the ball, and he did – but only at the second time of asking and although it was soft, you could see why referee Mike Dean gave it.

Lampard doesn’t miss often and he didn’t here, calmly rolling the ball past Kingson.

The game was over four minutes later, Lampard again on target.

Kalou – making quite an impression – sent Lampard clear and the England midfielder struck the ball firmly into the bottom corner.

Kingson eventually succumbed to his injury, which allowed Mark Halstead to make a debut he will tell his grandkids about.

Ormerod and Matt Phillips also came on and the latter missed a great chance to score, scampering on to Southern’s pass but shooting wide.

The goal Pool deserved did arrive though, and it was a cracker.

Puncheon finished off a lovely move after good work from Crainey and Beattie, beating Cech from 16 yards.

With Chelsea sitting back, the Seasiders charged forward and should have reduced the deficit further when Phillips put the ball on a plate for Ormerod, only for the striker’s shot to be blocked in the nick of time by Terry.

When Evatt smashed a half-volley agonisingly wide, Pool’s challenge finally wilted but did they do themselves proud.

No points, but if Holloway’s men play like this in the final nine games, then staying up will not be a problem.

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