Powerhouse Drogba leads rout of Bolton
On an emotional evening when Bolton Wanderers gathered to pay tribute to their greatest striker Nat Lofthouse, Chelsea celebrated their current crop of forwards.
All three of Carlo Ancelotti's attackers, Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka, found the mark as the champions mocked suggestions of a crisis. With Ramires finding the target for the first time for Chelsea, and a work permit application submitted for the soon-to-arrive David Luiz, the future looks promising for Ancelotti's side.
If the four finishes were all good, especially Drogba's thunderbolt opener, then what also impressed about Chelsea was that they never let up. Even when leading 4-0, blue waves kept rolling towards Jussi Jaaskelainen, who managed to make an astonishing save from Anelka just before the final whistle.
What this also confirmed is that Chelsea will not give up their title lightly. There is too much fire-power and willpower in this Chelsea side.
Bolton, sadly, were surprisingly anaemic. The evening had begun with a wonderful tribute to the late, great Lofthouse, a moving pre-match period of a minute's silence, thunderous applause, black-and-white footage of the the 'Lion of Vienna' in action and the laying of floral tributes by the two captains, Kevin Davies and John Terry.
The game then commenced with the type of goal Lofthouse would have relished, barring the identity of the victims. Here was a muscular centre-forward unleashing a shot that stormed past a goalkeeper. It was not the last time a striker strode through with venomous intent. Chelsea's forwards were dominant all night.
The first was a magnificent strike from Drogba, who responded so emphatically after Malouda had dispossessed Gretar Steinsson. Drogba advanced and let fly, the ball going straight before deviating as it swept inexorably past Jussi Jaaskelainen. Bolton's keeper almost suffered whiplash simply watching it speed past.
The Blues were in the mood, banishing thoughts of their recent poor form with some powerful surges. When Johan Elmander lost possession, Chelsea raced through the gears, releasing Anelka into the box. The former Bolton forward should have scored but hesitated, allowing Zat Knight to slide in and make an important block. With David Wheater watching from the bench, this was an important night for Knight.
Bolton settled, briefly, and almost equalised. Martin Petrov sprung to life on the left, curling a cross around Jose Bosingwa into the box. Matt Taylor reacted brilliantly, twisting to meet the ball and flick a downward header towards goal. Somehow, Petr Cech dived to his left, stretched out a fingertip and nudged the ball to safety.
From the brink of parity, Chelsea simply went downfield and doubled their advantage. Having taken a corner from the right, Malouda drifted into the box, looking to exploit any mayhem that his dead-ball had caused. When John Obi Mikel lifted the ball back, Branislav Ivanovic inadvertently headed it on to Malouda. His first effort having caught Gary Cahill, Malouda simply kept his composure, calmly slotting the ball low past Jaaskelainen.
Bolton attempted to rally. From a Kevin Davies dinked pass, Elmander met the ball athletically, transferring it goalwards until Cech managed to shovel it to safety.
The Bolton public soon began to become enervated at the antics of Mikel, who twice went down far too easily.
A new target soon presented himself. When Taylor caught Drogba with a raised boot, making contact but hardly vicious, Chelsea's Ivorian reacted as if he had been hit by a train. When Taylor complained about Drogba's response, the striker lifted his shirt to point out where he had been kicked. The scene's already rich comic value grew further when Steinsson barged in, hoisting his own shirt. Pure playground antics.
The game was effectively ended as a contest shortly afterwards. Bolton never give up, but they had a mountain to climb when Anelka struck. Davies ceded possession and Chelsea went for the jugular again. Malouda found Essien and soon Anelka was involved, threading a low shot past Jaaskelainen.
Coyle had to shake up his team. Mark Davies and Rodrigo arrived for Petrov and Fabrice Muamba. Davies' first act was to take out Essien off the ball. The game was getting increasingly physical.
Bolton kept trying to pass and move, Mark Davies even scurrying through on goal until Cech sped from his line, but Chelsea remained in control.
Chelsea made changes of their own, Josh McEachran arriving to continue his education. The champions soon had a fourth, Essien breaking in from the left and cutting the ball back to Anelka. His shot was blocked, the ball falling to Ramires, who cleverly placed a sidefooted effort from the edge of the box past Jaaskelainen.
"Chelsea are back..." chorused the visiting fans, who had travelled in impressive numbers on a bitterly cold, traffic-filled night.
Ancelotti clearly wanted to keep the foot on the accelerator. Ramires was replaced by Salomon Kalou and Chelsea were almost playing 4-2-4, although Malouda was mindful of guarding the left. Kalou also dropped back to protected the right.
Chelsea were passing the ball around kings, McEachran working a neat move with Ashley Cole to manoeuvre the ball out of the visitors' box.
The busiest person at the Reebok was probably now the Sky soundman.
Chelsea fans chose a quiet moment to sing about Andy Gray, whose off-mic' comments about a female assistant referee have upset so many. "Are you watching Andy Gray?" they inquired loudly about the co-commentator who had been 'rested' for this match. "Getting sacked in the morning," they then chanted before concluding: "Andy Gray ... Channel 5." (© Daily Telegraph, London)