Bolton 0-4 Chelsea: Daily Mirror match report
Published 22:23 24/01/11 By Martin Lipton
He's back, without a doubt.
And maybe, just maybe, they’re back too, exactly as Carlo Ancelotti promised.
Given lift-off by a long-range stunner from Didier Drogba, and breathing space by Florent Malouda, Chelsea picked their favourite ground to finally end their away-day toils and perhaps get themselves back into the title race.
Since Roman Abramovich bought the Blues in 2003, Chelsea had won on all seven visits to the Reebok, without conceding a goal.
And on a night dedicated to the memory of Bolton’s favourite son, Nat Lofthouse, it was the sheer physical power of Drogba that helped Ancelotti’s men end that shocking run of just two points from their previous six away games.
Drogba’s poor form as he battled to shrug off the effects of malaria have summed up Chelsea’s toils in recent weeks, looking a pale shadow of his normal self in a team that has been equally off-key.
But the African king’s 11th-minute screamer tore the heart out of Bolton’s early impetus, with Malouda’s soft strike just before the break confirming their superiority.
And when the third member of the front-line that has mis-fired throughout their winter wobble, Nicolas Anelka, thumped home before the hour, it became a shooting gallery for Owen Coyle’s men, Ramires scoring his first goal for the club to finish it off.
As Bolton began like a house on fire, not even Ancelotti could really have guessed what was coming. The Italian has consistently moaned about his side’s inability to get out of the blocks and for the first 10 minutes they were firmly on the back foot.
Branislav Ivanovic’s poor clearance gave Stuart Holden an early shooting chance the American snatched at wildly and seconds later the recalled Martin Petrov’s cross caused real danger.
Johan Elmander, unmarked, flicked on but Kevin Davies’ header lacked the power to trouble Petr Cech.
Chelsea looked sluggish and off-key, which made what followed even more unlikely.
Malouda caught Gretar Steinsson in possession but even when the loose ball fell to Drogba 40 yards out, there seemed little on.
Drogba took two touches to get within shooting distance and then let fly, the ball swerving late and away from Jussi Jaaskelainen’s despairing right hand, smashing into the net as the Ivorian celebrated.
Bolton had a mountain to climb and Chelsea something significant to hold onto, their tackles – from skipper John Terry in particular – carrying more bite, with Petrov wasting the opportunities to expose Jose Bosingwa’s flank.
Drogba and Anelka looked sharper, although they still appeared lightweight in midfield in the absence of Frank Lampard. Yet Bolton were finding it hard to create more good openings and when Elmander was robbed by John Obi Mikel, who instantly fed Anelka, the former Bolton man should have put the game to bed, wasting two chances.
Chelsea were so nearly made to pay, Petrov’s cross met by Matthew Taylor on the penalty spot, with Cech making a terrific stop down to his left to fingertip behind.
And Chelsea took advantage of the let-off. Ashley Cole had been just wide after a driving run by Drogba but four minutes from the break they had clear Blues water.
Mikel lofted into the crowded box, Ivanovic’s touch fell to Malouda and while Gary Cahill blocked the first effort, the France skipper rolled the second ball between Jaaskelainen and his near post.
While Cech uncomfortably shovelled an acrobatic Elmander effort aside before the break, jeers met the half-time whistle and Chelsea were in control.
And 11 minutes after the restart, that was confirmed as Anelka atoned for his earlier misses by putting it to bed.
Michael Essien overlapped outside Malouda, Drogba got a touch at the near post and as the ball fell onto Anelka’s left foot, the effort had the strength to go in despite Jaaskelainen getting a hand to it.
Now it was a question of the victory margin, the “bad moment” well and truly consigned to the past, with the fourth coming after Anelka’s shot was blocked only as far as Ramires, who forced home.