Rams v Chelsea - report
Blues to good for gallant Rams
The Rams showed more than their feeble effort last time out against West Ham, but goals in either half from Saloman Kalou and Shaun Wright-Phillips gave Chelsea the points, but the Rams' performance restored plenty of pride at the club.
The Blues hit the front when Kalou finished on 16 minutes, and it looked like the Stamford Bridge side would run away with the game and they were in cruise-control before the break but after half-time it was a different story as the Rams showed what they can produce in the top flight.
Derby came out fighting after the break with Coach Billy Davies half time team talk still ringing in their ears and Craig Fagan forced Carlo Cudicini into a fine save before Wright-Phillips sealed victory for the visitor`s controversially mid way through the half.
There was a surprise in the Rams starting line up with Stephen Pearson out injured, and he was replaced by David Jones, while Dean Leacock and Claude Davis also returned.
Chelsea brought back John Terry and Ashley Cole after injury, and Andriy Shevchenko replaced the injured Didier Drogba up front, and Cudicini replaced an injured Petr Cech in goal.
From the start of the game the Rams fans gave Chelsea`s England contingent a hard time, after Wednesday`s performance against Croatia, and continually booed them. But it was Chelsea who was the first to threaten on five minutes, Frank Lampard freeing Kalou down the left. The Ivory Coast star fired over a powerful cross that Stephen Bywater did well to palm away to safety.
The home side were enjoying plenty of possession, but didn`t threaten Cudicini`s goal, but when Chelsea broke forward they looked dangerous. Terry broke up an attack on 14 minutes and strode forward, slipping the ball to Mikel who in turn found Frank Lampard, but his 25-yard shot was well over the bar.
But their pressure paid off moments later with the lead, Mikel and Lampard were again involved, and Steve Sidwell`s inch perfect pass from just outside the box allowed Kalou too finish low past Bywater.
The goal quieten the sell out Pride Park crowd, but they came back to life moments later when Leacock`s effort bounced wide and then Jones did like wise from the edge of the box, the rebound rolling out to Jay McEveley who took aim from 30-yards but never threaten Cudicini's goal.
Chelsea continued to press and Shaun Wright-Phillips went close on 29 minutes, when he cut inside Andy Griffin, before forcing the Rams keeper Bywater into an excellent save.
It was really men against boys as the London side dominated and they should have doubled their lead on 38 minutes. It was Wright-Phillips again on the left; he crossed deep to the far post, where Davis`s attempted clearance only ended up six-yards from goal, where the on-rushing Kalou somehow managed to blaze his effort well over the bar from point blank range.
It was a different story in the second half as the Rams lifted, Giles Barnes broke forward early and it ended with Craig Fagan smashing the ball across goal from wide on the right, which gave the Rams long suffering supporters some encouragement.
But with the Rams chasing the game Chelsea went close on 48 minutes, Lampard`s powerful free-kick was pushed away by the alert Bywater. It was an even game now with the Rams giving as good as they got and three minutes later Cudicini was forced into action. Darren Moore sent a lovely ball out to Barnes, he found Jones who played a perfectly weighted ball into Fagan, who turned inside the box and smashed a shot that Cudicini did well to beat away. The Rams faithful roared for a penalty as the ball was returned into the box but referee Andre Marriner waved away their protests.
It was a different Derby team now as they had the ball moving around quicker in midfield and when they didn't, they were snapping into their challenges, and taking the game to Chelsea. Then on 64 minutes the Rams thought they had the equaliser, Leacock`s pass sent Kenny Miller clear and he lobbed the advancing Cudicini, only for the linesman's to flag for offside. After TV reply`s showed the assistant was wrong to flag him offside.
But Chelsea held their nerve and doubled their lead on 72 though the goal left a bitter taste in Rams boss Billy Davies` mouth. Shevchenko won the ball in midfield from Barnes, though it was a tackle from behind that left the Derby man prone on the floor. The ball broke to Lampard, who pushed forward and cut inside before firing against the post, the rebound falling kindly to Wright-Phillips who scored from close-range.
Rams boss Davies was left furious with the non decision and Barnes wasn't able to continue and was helped hobbling from the field, replaced by Steve Howard.
Derby roared back showing great character and Miller rounded Cudicini, only to see Tal Ben-Haim block his cross in front of goal. Then with eight remaining it was Miller who was the provider this time, the Scottish international striker found space on the right and lifted over a lovely cross that Howard met, but under pressure from Ben-Haim he could only direct his header past the post.
Davies brought on Benny Feilhaber and Robert Earnshaw late on, the American threatened from distance on 89 minutes but his shot went wide. But the action wasn`t over then when the visitors were reduced to ten men as Essien saw red for needlessly swinging an arm at Miller.
An improved performance from the Rams, but again the lack of goals is a huge concern, but the performance will have restored plenty of pride following the disappointment against West Ham last time out.
Rams: GK Bywater, McEveley, Leacock, Jones, Oakley (C) (Feilhaber 83, Fagan (Earnshaw 85), Miller, Griffin, Davis, Moore, Barnes (Howard 73)
Subs not used: Price, Mears
Chelsea: GK Cudicini, A Cole, Shevchenko, Lampard (Pizarro 89), Sidwell (Essien 73), Mikel, Kalou, Ben-Haim, Wright-Phillips, Terry, Belletti
Subs not used: Hilario, J Cole, Alex
Referee - Andre Marriner
Derby manager Billy Davies:
'You cannot ask any more from this group of players,' Davies said.
'The West Ham game was a blip and it showed that we don't have the depth of squad that a side like Chelsea has.
'But you cannot knock this group of players for the effort, energy and commitment they showed.
'We could have got something from the game. Kenny Miller was two yards onside and for their second Giles Barnes was tackled from behind, which isn't in the rules of the game.
'We have a good group of players, but we just need to add that bit of quality to the playing staff.
'I was disappointed with the first goal but other than that you can`t fault this team.
'But now is the time to invest in the squad. If we can bring in the six players we need then we can compete.
'We have already identified three players but the difference between top and bottom is clear and that's down to investment.'
The Blues boss was left furious with Michael Essien sending off.
He said: 'I don't want to criticise referees because they can make mistakes.
'I have a feeling we are easy targets in the way they give us red cards. Since I came here we have had three red cards, two that were absolutely not.
'It was not an easy game; we played against a team that played for their life. We held the ball all the time, the players were patient. We controlled the game totally, the ball was in our control all the time, and we were not worried.'