They say it’s the sign of true champions to play poorly yet still win. But whilst Chelsea are no champions, they can be mightily relieved they won, with a helpful hand by the match officials. Ivanovic looked to be standing in an offside position when he opened the scoring in the second half, but though the entire Wigan team were protesting, Mike Jones stood firm. Diame looked to have crushed Chelsea’s Champions League hopes for next season when he equalised with minutes to go, but Mata scored with second to go to send the stadium into delirium.
The first half was one to forget. With Roberto Di Matteo ringing the changes with the schedule tight, Chelsea lacked the drive without the likes of Terry, Lampard, Cole, Ramires and Torres. Cahill and Bertrand were drafted in to provide some fresh legs.
Didier Drogba, who captained the side for the afternoon, had the first chance of the game. Mata’s free-kick was attacked by the Ivorian, but Al Habsi pounced on the loose ball.
Bertrand, making his first Premier League start, was proving to be an excellent deputy for Ashley Cole, working well with Essien to send a cross over, only for Florent Malouda to mess up the shot.
Cahill decided to follow in the footsteps of partner David Luiz by making a surging run, his fierce 25-yard shot well pushed over by Al Habsi.
Drogba then showed us what he is capable of, taking down a high ball, getting past the Wigan defence, only to drag gis shot wide.
But it was former Chelsea man, Franco Di Santo, who was proving to be more of a handful, keeping Cahill busy all afternoon.
The half’s highlight had to be when a pigeon turned up on the pitch, with a Twitter account made in his honour, before Mata and Drogba nearly broke the deadlock, with the Spaniard’s shot blocked by Al Habsi, and then the Ivorian’s header was cleared off the line.
The Chelsea faithful decided it would be more appropriate to sing after their team rather than the pigeon in the second half, and fifteen minutes in, it worked. Mata’s free-kick was cleared, but when Meireles chipped it back in, the Serbian was on hand to prod home. TV replays showed that Wigan had every right in protesting the decision.
The scorer then turned goal-saver, getting back brilliantly to clear a Di Santo shot off the line.
Chelsea, having introduced Torres, were playing with more freedom, but needed to score another to make sure there was no repeat of the reverse outing. Drogba could have done it, Sturridge too, but ultimately, with ten minutes to go, Chelsea were still only clinging onto the lead.
But that was wiped out with a fine strike by Diame, smashing the ball home and celebrating with the handful of Wigan fans who made it down to Stamford Bridge.
The tension was building, the fan’s optimism for a top four finishing slowly diminishing. But Chelsea’s best performer all season got the winner. Dider Drogba lofted a beautiful ball over everyont to Torres on the right. The Spaniard’s instant volley hit the far post, but thankfully, his compatriot Juan Mata was on hand to knock it in.
The games come thick and fast now. Chelsea have 48 hours to prepare for the next outing on Easter Monday. FA Cup and Champions League aspirations are still very much alive. But on this evidence, Barcelona won’t be suffering sleepness nights.