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Chelsea 4-3 Bolton


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Chelsea F.C. 4 - 3 Bolton Wanderers

Saturday 11 April 2009, Premier League, Stamford Bridge, West London.

Didier Drogba celebrates his second goal with Frank Lampard and John Terry.

Two Didier Drogba goals earned Chelsea a vital win at Stamford Bridge against an in-form Bolton Wanderers.

Michael Ballack opened the scoring for the hosts after playing a superb one-two with Ivorian forward Salomon Kalou, and Didier Drogba made it 2-0 after the break with a finish from close range. Frank Lampard hammered home a penalty for his 17th goal of the season, before Drogba completed his brace by converting an Ivanovic flick-on inside the penalty area. But Chelsea were made to pay for taking their foot off the pedal, and a ten-minute period of play saw the visitors claim three scrappy goals to dampen the euphoric mood at Stamford Bridge, and both teams had the ball cleared off the line in a frantic finale.

Despite a nervous defensive display in the final twenty minutes following the substitutions of Drogba and Lampard, the Blues managed to hang on to claim a massive win over Bolton for only the second time in six matches against the Trotters at Stamford Bridge, after Matt Taylor's last-minute goal gave Gary Megson's side a draw in the corresponding match last term. The win is a useful one for Chelsea, who maintain a six-point advantage over fourth-placed Arsenal, and keeping the pressure on leaders Manchester United, who won 2-1 at Sunderland.

With one eye on Tuesday's Champions League visit of Liverpool, Guus Hiddink elected to rest Alex and Michael Essien; replaced by Ricardo Carvalho and John Mikel Obi respectively. Florent Malouda continued out wide alongside Salomon Kalou and forward Drogba, with Nicolas Anelka having to settle for a place on the substitute's bench. The Frenchman would later enter the play to face his former team.

Bolton signalled their intent to attack as early as the first minute, when the Trotters won a free-kick out wide. Matt Taylor surprised everyone inside Stamford Bridge by going for goal from an audacious distance, but Petr Cech was quickly across his goal line to push the ball away for a corner. A wry smile from the Czech suggested he had an inkling that Bolton's number 7 would try to embarrass him.

Chelsea had to wait until the 8th minute to seriously test Jussi Jaaskelainen, when Didier Drogba's chipped effort from 25 yards almost caught the Finnish international off his line. Following a neat interchange between Frank Lampard and Michael Ballack, the Ivorian managed to fashion himself a yard of space, and his cheeky lobbed effort was denied only by the stretching frame of the goalkeeper.

Lampard went for goal himself shortly after and found Jaaskelainen's midriff with an effort that was straight down the Bolton shot-stopper's throat. Florent Malouda then skied an effort into the Matthew Harding Stand after a decent passage of play down the left for Chelsea. The Blues were in the ascendancy, but Bolton seemed content for their opponents to shoot from range.

Kevin Davies responded for the Trotters with a couple of decent efforts that had the visiting support groaning in frustration. The English striker, who has found the net 12 times already this season, first saw an effort flash wide of Cech's upright, before his looping header from a Ricardo Gardner cross was less than a foot over the crossbar. Bolton were showing that they were more than capable of springing a surprise on the counter-attack, but questions will have been asked over Ballack giving the ball away to cheaply to Jamaican midfielder Gardner.

Ballack showed his class moments after, when he launched a stupendous effort from his right foot, which flew inches over the Bolton bar with Jaaskelainen beaten. The effort was applauded by the Chelsea faithful, and it was the closest the German had come to opening his Premier League account for the season.

Ashley Cole then showed his attacking prowess by launching a devilish cross into the box that Drogba could only power behind, before launching a 25-yard daisy-cutter that was a foot or so wide of the Bolton goal; Jaaskelainen was well-positioned for both attempts, however. Kalou then headed off-target before Malouda saw a shot blocked after being played in by the effective Drogba.

John Mikel Obi shot from 25 yards that the Finn smothered, before Ballack finally opened his league account for the season. Playing a neat one-two with Kalou inside the area, the German finished with aplomb, leaving the goalkeeper no chance as he wheeled away to celebrate with the capacity crowd inside Stamford Bridge. The lead was deserved, and Hiddink will have been happy with the perseverance demonstrated by his team. Kalou wasted an opportunity to feed Lampard a few minutes later, and Elmander's athletic volley saw him fire just wide of the post after the visitors had won another freekick out wide, before Davies smashed an effort mere inches wide of the upright.

Drogba made it 2-0 minutes into the second half when he powered home Lampard's low free-kick after Ballack appeared to miss the ball. The Ivorian - back to his unplayable best - could have had a second seconds later but he could not adjust his stance to poke home Lampard's wayward effort. Nevertheless, the Blues were in total control and through Lampard and Drogba, were passing the ball around comfortably and looking ominous when on the charge.

Lampard hit another effort wide before his penalty kick made it 3-0 to the Blues. Gretar Steinsson had been harshly adjudged to have handled inside the area by referee Peter Walton, and the England midfielder slotted the ball into the corner after sending Jaaskelainen the wrong way. Chelsea were rampant and it was 4-0 a matter of minutes later, when Drogba bundled Ivanovic's header over the line following a curling Malouda corner kick.

Stamford Bridge was in party mood, and Lampard and Drogba both went off to raucous applause. Nicolas Anelka came on in place of the Ivorian, and Deco replaced Lampard - Bolton fans would need no reminding the two substitutes were on the scoresheet at the Reebok in the return fixture back in December when Deco scored a spectacular scissor kick and Anelka netted a superb diving header from a Jose Bosingwa cross.

But the Blues took their foot of the gas, much to the frustration of thousands of Chelsea fans, as Bolton grabbed what many thought would have been mere consolation. Michael Ballack cleared off the line for the hosts, but Andy O'Brien was first to the rebound after Gardner chipped the ball back into the danger zone. It was poor defending by Chelsea. Hiddink might have angry with the lackadaisical attitude shown by his defenders, but he would have been absolutely furious when Chris Basham poked home Bolton's second.

In truth, it was a well-worked goal by the visitors, as Steinsson's cross was met by Davies, who headed back across goal for the young Bolton midfielder to net his first goal for the club. Cech was angry at his defenders but some blame must be attached to the Chelsea goalkeeper, who should have commanded his area with more authority.

Bolton then scored a third when Jaaskelainen's long punt up field evaded the entire Chelsea defence, allowing Davies to head on for Matt Taylor to steal in and head beyond Cech. Hiddink shook his head with disappointment as the stadium fell suddenly quiet. Ten minutes before, the Matthew Harding Stand had been celebrating one of the performances of the season, but Bolton had more than spoilt the party. Away in the Shed End, the visiting fans were in fantastic voice. The comeback of all comebacks was on.

Chelsea responded when Deco played the ball to Anelka, whose shot was saved by Jaaskelainen, and Cech showed more authority by making several excellent crosses under pressure as the visitors piled men into the Chelsea box. Steinsson then denied Chelsea what would have been a goal totally out of nothing as Anelka latched onto O'Brien's back pass. The Frenchman's shot was partially saved by Jaaskelainen, allowing the midfielder to clear off the line.

Steinsson himself shot wide under pressure before Malouda had an effort expertly stopped by Jaaskelainen. Chelsea could well have been 6-3 up but for the Finnish goalkeeper, but they could have been pegged back to 4-4 as well as Bolton made one last throw of the dice. Somehow, after a number of corners, the ball stayed out as Davies' header was blocked. Somehow, Chelsea were still ahead. Somehow, a certain goal had been denied.

Somehow, Chelsea have to tighten their defence before the visit of Liverpool. Somehow.


The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match award goes to...


Frank Lampard, Chelsea F.C.

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Carvalho, Terry ©, A Cole; Ballack, Mikel, Lampard (Deco); Kalou, Drogba (Anelka), Malouda

Bolton Wanderers: Jaaskelainen; Steinsson, Shittu (O' Brien), Cahill, Samuel; Davies, Muamba, McCann (Cohen), Gardner, Taylor; Elmander (Basham).
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