Lampard makes his point to Villas-Boas
WOLVES 1 CHELSEA 2
Published 03/01/2012 | 05:00
As a study of body language this was a psychologist's dream.
There was the mass touchline man-hug of celebration at Chelsea's first goal, interestingly mainly involving the Portuguese speakers, including Andre Villas-Boas.
Then, pointedly, there was Frank Lampard's solitary communion with the away supporters after the final whistle as manager Villas-Boas sought out more contact with his players, including a bare-chested John Terry.
Too much can be read into all that, although much of it appeared relevant given the machinations from some at the club -- such as Lampard's unease over his future and the limitations on his minutes on the pitch.
However, there was no doubting the anger of Wolves manager Mick McCarthy, who could well have argued that the midfielder's goal, scored with just 90 seconds left on the clock, came 64 minutes after he should have been shown the red card for a reckless late tackle on Adam Hammill.
Instead McCarthy was simply "livid" at the appalling nature of his side's defending and admitted he had had what he termed a "proper snarl" at his players for hauling themselves back into the contest only to toss it away as Lampard ran unchecked to volley home Ashley Cole's low cross late on and deflate a gloating home contingent in front of him.
Wolves' sense of injustice was compounded because they lost Nenad Milijas to a dismissal for a less vicious looking challenge against Arsenal recently.
In fairness to Lampard, his contrition was immediate and genuine after catching Hammill and that, and the fact it was a first offence, may have persuaded referee Peter Walton to spare him. But he probably should have gone.
The official then embarked on a mad six-minute spell in which he booked four more players, with Cole on the verge of losing control.
It was an unedifying passage in a match that meant so much to Chelsea -- they simply could not afford anything short of victory after three draws and a defeat in their previous four games -- but which they almost threw away by giving up a goal, once more, late on.
They have conceded 10 times in the final 10 minutes of matches this season and, even then, there was almost an 11th with the very last piece of action only for Petr Cech to superbly tip over a Kevin Doyle header from close range.
When Wolves had scored, Villas-Boas' frustration was obvious but he pulled back from kicking a row of water bottles.
Another equalising goal and he would have attempted to launch those bottles over the stand instead of saying, "it was good to see the team react to a negative" following the "incompetent" defeat to Aston Villa on Saturday and, before that, the draws that had hit belief and rekindled stories of player unrest.
Villas-Boas, as is his wont, hit those stories head on -- "what is written is false" -- and said the celebrations were "part of the unity of the team and what the team have been doing".
But it was interesting to observe what happened when Ramires turned, after Juan Mata's corner ran to him, to lash the ball high into the Wolves net and open the scoring.
The Brazilian reeled away, only for Raul Meireles to gently steer him towards the away dugout, then David Luiz to join in with Jose Bosingwa to make a full-house of Chelsea's Portuguese speakers.
Cole joined in as, to an extent, did Terry with Luiz beckoning the substitutes and coaching staff to come forward also which they did.
Such gatherings can be signs of weakness as well as strength, looking overly dramatic, but Villas-Boas added to the sense of occasion by suggesting that, after all, Chelsea might just be back in the title race.
Certainly he feels that the 90-point winning post target set by Manchester City manager Roberto Mancini needs to be revised down.
Interestingly, Villas-Boas did not accept invitations to praise Lampard but that is par for the course for the manager who does not like singling out individuals.
Given, however, that he did offer a nod of approval to Fernando Torres' performance -- once more an improvement -- then it did add to the feeling that all does not remain well between the 33-year-old England international and his 34-year-old boss.
Only a fine tackle by Richard Stearman prevented Lampard from opening the scoring early on, as he shaped to shoot from Torres' pass; the striker had already set up Mata whose effort slid across goal.
Chelsea's set-piece vulnerability was again obvious as Roger Johnson's header came back off the post from one free-kick, and then the unmarked Stephen Ward steered his header wide when he should have scored.
Once in front, Chelsea were dominant, with Wayne Hennessey beating out Ramires' shot after another powerful run by the midfielder and then Torres stumbling as he threatened to wriggle through.
Wolves appeared bereft of ideas but McCarthy's substitutions rekindled them and when Matt Jarvis sent in an angled cross, Steven Fletcher beat Jose Bosingwa to it and turned the ball to Ward, who slammed it past Cech.
It seemed then that Wolves had staged another rousing comeback but Chelsea regrouped for the resilient Lampard to take the honours -- although he didn't seek out his manager for celebration. (© Daily Telegraph, London)