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Chelsea squeak past Shrewsbury thanks to late winner

Laurence Griffiths

There's basically nothing impressive about beating Shrewsbury, and little to be had in amusement from watching a weakened Chelsea play against a League Two side just 48 hours after getting stung at Old Trafford. The potential for embarrassment is high, the reward for winning low, and the players, fun as they are, were distinctly second string. Throw in miserable weather and a poor pitch and the sludge underfoot becomes a nice metaphor for the match as a whole.

The good news is that we won. 2-1, in fact, with a strike from Didier Drogba and a late Jermaine Granderson own goal. It wasn't pleasant and the fact that we couldn't even hold off Shrewsbury when we were looking to keep it at 1-0 with 15 minutes left is especially annoying in light of the events of last weekend, but at the very least it's over and we can all look forward to a place in the quarterfinals.

The match began well, with a couple of corners and a few speculative, long range and hilariously tame shots from André Schürrle, but it then quickly settled into a bizarre and unfortunate pattern that mostly consisted of us not knowing what we were doing either on or off the ball. It was the hosts who had the best chance of the first half, with Petr Cech saving well from Nathaniel Knight-Percival after a mis-timed jump from Zouma, and Chelsea were spending their time giving the ball to Schürrle and Mohamed Salah and watching them do silly things with it.

There didn't seem to be much in the way of a coherent plan, and so Jose Mourinho turned on the hairdryer at the interval. The Blues sprung out of the second-half blocks and quickly established a lead through Didier Drogba. I'd apparently done Drogba a huge disservice by claiming that he couldn't possibly play two full games in three days, because the Ivorian did just that, completing the match after his tireless shift in Manchester. And, of course, he scored in both.

It was a smart but straightforward goal. Schürrle swung in a long pass from the right, Salah met the diagonal with a clever flick, and Drogba, arriving onto the scene late, turned out to have timed his run perfectly. He met the ball with a cushioned finish, easily beating Jayson Leutwiler, and the Blues were 1-0 up.

For a few minutes it looked as though we'd be able to add to the scoreline and relax. Drogba came closest to getting our second with a thunderbolt from 25 yards that Leutwiler was barely able to deal with, while Schürrle finally made good contact on a shot that barely went over. The second goal seemed on its way, and on the whole Chelsea had the match under control.

Until, suddenly, they didn't. There was a warning before Shrewsbury leveled -- Jean-Louis Akpa's deflected shot squirmed past the post with Cech helpless to save it -- but the Blues failed to take note, and paid the price in the 77th minute. Granderson rose unmarked to meet a corner, and although his effort was blocked inadvertently by John Obi Mikel, the rebound was stabbed in by Andrew Mangan.

Extra time was basically the last thing Mourinho wanted, so his response to the goal was to throw on Willian and Nemanja Matic. Mercifully, the manager retained his magic touch with substitutions, and Chelsea reestablished their lead within a few minutes. Willian raced away down the left, fired a cross into the box, and although Granderson successfully managed to prevent the ball getting to Drogba with a last-ditch header, his supreme effort ended up costing his side a goal anyway as the ball crept in at the far post.

Thankfully there'd be no further comeback. It wasn't exactly the most convincing of performances, but another four victories in this competition and we'll be lifting silverware.

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