Wednesday 1 March 2017

Anelka on fire as sizzling Chelsea hit Wigan for six

It says so much for the certainty and efficiency of this Chelsea side that Wigan will come away from a heavy defeat with no points but plenty of pride. It is only against the very best that results are measured in such a relative manner and although Wigan will feel they controlled much of the opening period, Chelsea did not feel in the least bit threatened.

After Florent Malouda opened the scoring, Nicolas Anelka added another two, following a week that saw him respond to an 18-match ban by the France national team by claiming he was "dying with laughter". Such was Saturday's superiority, Anelka's mood was more of a smug smirk, particularly after Salomon Kalou added a late fourth and a fifth and Yossi Benayoun a sixth to underline Chelsea's wonderful start to the season.

Chelsea's 3-1 defeat here in September was as chastening as losses get and, fresh from another humbling of their own against Blackpool last week, Wigan set about trying to recreate that momentous day in their history.

Maynor Figueroa broke forward from deep and had a thumping 30-yard effort swatted away by Petr Cech, while there were some neat touches from Charles N'Zogbia, who was left out of the Blackpool defeat due to his poor attitude.

Michael Essien's wild strike into the crowd was as close as the visitors came in the early stages, content to stand firm against the onslaught and wait for some semblance of control as Anelka struggled to win his weekly battle with the offside flag.

Hugo Rodallega, whose harassment of the Chelsea defence was crucial to last season's victory, also had a curling free-kick held by Cech as the hosts sensed their momentum was gathering. Seven days before, Wigan were second to everything but now they were fighting each other to win second balls and after Diame bustled Anelka off the ball, Figueroa laid it on for Rodallega, who cut in from the left and had another long-range effort held by Cech.

But while Wigan were struggling to make their dominance count, Chelsea pulled them apart with their first attack of any note. Didier Drogba passed to Ashley Cole and the left back's cross picked out Frank Lampard on the penalty spot. Chris Kirkland palmed away the midfielder's stab at goal but Malouda was the quickest to react, rolling into an empty net from a couple of yards out.

Ronnie Stam had a low effort saved by Cech as Wigan searched for a way back but Chelsea looked like they could rip the hosts open whenever they fancied, with Antolin Alcaraz desperately clearing ahead of Drogba. N'Zogbia was clearly aggrieved and seconds after a late sliding challenge on John Terry, the Frenchman looked to have caught the Chelsea captain with his knee.

A couple of minutes after the restart, Chelsea put the game beyond their hosts, with a goal that showed Wigan's defensive failings as much as the ruthlessness of the champions. John Obi Mikel's 60-yard diagonal ball was perfect for Anelka and the striker managed to squeeze the ball inside the far post despite being forced wide.

Five minutes later, it was three nil. Cech hoofed the ball clear down the left channel, and Drogba attempted to bounce it in from Malouda's pass, only for Anelka -- who had been in an offside position -- to glance over the line with the faintest of touches. Wigan still attempted to stretch the Londoners, with James McCarthy playing N'Zogbia through, only for the Frenchman to be denied by Alex's block. Another wonderful run by Rodallega ended with Alex once again flinging himself in front of N'Zogbia's effort.

Even when Wigan finally did have the ball in the net, it was ruled out for offside. McCarthy's curling shot beat Cech but came back off the post for Mauro Boselli, who had failed to spot Chelsea's defensive line step up. The rout was complete when Drogba intercepted in midfield and burst clear, only to square for substitute Kalou to side-foot into an empty net. Kalou also glanced in a second from Drogba's wonderful cross to make it five with a minute left before Benayoun scored his first for the club to make it six. Effortless, easy and authoritative.

Sunday Independent

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