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Paul Lagan, at Stamford Bridge
Saturday, February 25, 2012
Premier League: Chelsea 3 Bolton Wanderers 0
Chelsea dispatched relegation-haunted Bolton 3-0 at Stamford Bridge without appearing to raise a sweat.
Whether it was because they couldnt raise their game to the heights of their previous title-winning seasons or this was a functional display by design is any bodies guess.
It was under fire David Luiz, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard who scored the goals which gave Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas some breathing space from the media onslaught into his suitability to mange the Blues.
Make no mistake, Bolton were truly awful and should have conceded a cricket score of goals.
Chelsea for much of the game were ponderous and heavy legged, unsure exactly what they were supposed to do.
Daniel Sturridge had the first foray into the Bolton half on four minutes when he latched onto a ball from Lampard.
The striker raced through from the halfway line, using Didier Drogba as a cover, cut into the centre and let fly with a strong right-footer.
Luckily for Bolton, goalkeeper Adam Bogdan was quick to snuff out the shot.
Two minutes later, and Lampard and Drogba had chances to put the home side ahead, but both took one touch too many before being dispossessed.
Despite the lion's share of possession, the home side failed to create a goal-scoring threat as such, an Branislav Ivanovic glancing header, well wide, the best of the opening 28 minutes.
Sturridge, as if prompted, finally made Bogdan produce a proper save, a minute later turning the strikers curling left footer away to safety.
A quick breakaway on 35 minutes saw Sturridge race clear, but, once again taking too many touches and his ball to Ashley Cole came too late for the in-running left-back to do much more than put in a speculative long-range show, which sailed high and wide over Boltons crossbar.
Referee made a great spot with four minutes before the break, giving a yellow card for Darren Pratley who took a dive just inside the Chelsea penalty area from an innocuous Michael Essien challenge.
Boltons Ryo Miachis wayward shot a minute from half-time was the last meaningful action of the half.
It took just three minutes of the second half for the Blues to make the breakthrough.
Centre-back David Luiz collected the ball on the left of the Bolton area. after passing to Cole on the byline, the ball rebounded off David Wheater into the gleeful path of the Brazil defender who cooly slotted home a deft right-footed curler into the far left hand corner of Bogdans net.
It was Luiz's fourth league goal for the Blues.
Bolton should have equalised three minutes later when Nigel Reo-Coker, from just outside the Chelsea area, flashed a low right - footer past Petr Cech's left upright.
Luiz almost doubled his side's tally on 54 minutes, when he headed towards goal from a fine Juan Mata corner - a combination of the post and Miyaichi thwarting Luiz.
Chelsea, with a full head of steam, piled forward for the second On 57 minutes, Drogba looked on despairingly as his smart right footer from the edge of the Bolton area clipped the crossbar and zipped to safety.
The inevitable occurred on 62 minutes in the most simplistic of fashions. An in-swinging corner from Lampard and up popped Drogba to powerfully head the ball into the back of the net from six yards.
Ever mindful of a quick count-attack, Chelsea were lucky not to concede on 65 minutes when live wire Miyaichi showed a clean pair of heels to Ivanovic and Cahill on the left.The Japan midfielder's byline cross was hacked away by Luiz before a David Ngog could get on the end of it.
Misfit Fernando Torres entered the field when his replaced injured Drogba with 15 minutes to go.
Lampard did what he always does again Bolton - score.
The midfielder sneaked in at the far post and tucked home a side-footed volley from a deep right wing cross by Mata to kill off any lingering resistance with 11 minutes to go.
Chelsea did what the had to do, win - wether a watching Roman Abramovich will view the three points as sufficient to stem the tide of criticism against Villas-Boas is quite another thing.