CHELSEA 1-0 BOLTON WANDERERS
Let Everton enjoy “Rooneymania” because we’ve got our own superstar in the making, Carlton Cole. Finally given a chance to start, Cole scored the only goal of the game and demonstrated throughout the 75 minutes he was on the field that he should be in there every week.
It wasn’t just his goal – a beautiful diagonal run to collect Petit’s excellent chip through the middle and a neat step around the goalie – but his ability to create openings with his sparkling runs. Throw in his strength and ability in the air and he lacks nothing except opportunities to strut his stuff.
And thank God we had him because no one else, especially Hasselbaink, looked capable of taking the simplest of chances.
We could have exceeded the five goals we got in this fixture last season, but Hasselbaink wasted two opportunities when through on the keeper, Zola hit the side netting from close in and De Lucas blazed over when all alone in the penalty area. Even Cole missed a great chance when he lifted the ball over the goalie and the bar from a neat pass by Zenden who had one of those games that suggests he should not be here next season.
In the end, Chelsea were forced to hang on when they should have been strolling. Ranieri properly replaced Zenden with De Lucas right after the goal, but then let his cautious Italian instincts take over in the last 15 minutes when he pulled off Cole and then Zola for Gallas and Gudjohnsen.
We hung on for the three points, but it should never have been that close. We had started the game very brightly with Hasselbaink firing a chance over from our first attack, but gradually we slipped into lethargic mode and struggled to create clear openings. Most of the danger we created came from Cole making something out of nothing with excellent close control.
The comfort was that Bolton showed nothing at the other end where Cudicini had only to deal with the occasional back pass. Gallas was surprisingly left on the bench – anything to do with the transfer talk, I wonder? Terry and Desailly were commanding.
There were no changes at half time, though if Grokjaer had been fit we would surely have seen him in place of the woeful Zenden.
Cole’s goal changed the game and with Bolton committing more men forward it seemed inevitable we would add more with Petit again showing what we have missed with Morris there instead of the Frenchman. We should have too, but some of the finishing was appalling, especially from Hasselbaink, who otherwise actually worked hard and seemed rejuvenated by Cole’s presence.
Then we sat back and allowed Bolton to create a couple of late alarms, but in the end Cudicini never had a save to make and we sealed our fourth win in a row, keeping our distance from Everton and Liverpool and closing on the collapsing Newcastle.
CUDICINI, 6 – A few crosses, one dive at a forward’s feet and an easy clean sheet.
MELCHIOT, 7 – Another commendable performance, justifying his inclusion instead of having Gallas move to right back. Useful in the air and always ready to push forward on the right.
TERRY, 8 – Never put a foot wrong and commanded the area with Desailly.
DESAILLY, 8 – Pick any two of our three centre backs and you’ve got as strong a central defence as anyone in the Premier League.
LE SAUX, 7 – Like Melchiot sealed off his wing and pushed forward at every chance.
ZENDEN, 4 – It didn’t take long for the boo boys to single him out, but frankly he deserved it. In amongst the crap he served up were a couple of outstanding balls, but Gronkjaer is clearly superior on current form and should walk back in when he’s fit.
LAMPARD, 6 – A fairly quiet game for him and he let Petit be the main man. Got forward, as usual, for a couple of strong efforts on goal.
PETIT, 8 – How we miss him when he’s not there. Tackles far better than Morris and has a vision far beyond the range of young Jody. Was our main prompter.
ZOLA, 6 – Not quite on top of his game, although still showed his usual nice touches. Played mostly out on the left early on.
COLE, 9 – Took his goal with a calm that shamed his expensive colleague up front. One move, where he slipped two defenders pinning him to the touch line, was pure class. Had a goal bound shot blocked by Desailly in the first half, this kid has earned a permanent place.
HASSELBAINK, 6 – Would have earned a higher mark if he hadn’t completely lost the ability to finish. A pathetic lob when one-on-one with the goalie and a half-hearted prod when through again prevented us from enjoying the last 10 minutes. Must say though that he showed some hustle with and without the ball.
De LUCAS, 6 (58 for Zenden) – Couldn’t fail to look better than the man he replaced and he did show some quite neat touches on the right. Missed a great chance.
GALLAS, 6 (74 for Cole) – Played on the left side of what looked to be a back three with Le Saux pushed forward.
GUDJOHNSEN, NA (85 for Zola) – Wasn’t on long enough for a rating.