KALOU SEALS CRUCIAL WIN
Not only did Chelsea score, but they won in the Premiership, under Avram Grant. An excellent finish from Salmon Kalou was the only goal in this open encounter, with both Jussi Jaaskelainen and Petr Čech kept busy throughout the afternoon.
Chelsea were missing Michael Essien, Wayne Bridge, Jon Obi Mikel, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Didier Drogba through injury or suspension, but did have Frank Lampard available after six weeks out through injury. Once more, the last man standing was Steve Sidwell, who joined Claude Makelélé and Lampard in midfield. Belletti was preferred to Ferreira at right back, whilst Kalou played in the middle of the front three, flanked by Malouda and Joe Cole.
Sammy Lee left out Bolton captain Kevin Nolan and veteran Gary Speed from his midfield, electing to play Danny Guthrie and Gavin McCann in their place. The two O’Brien’s were in the defence, whilst Anelka, Diouf and Davies were the attacking threats.
After five minutes, Kevin Davies galloped through the Chelsea defence with ease, but Čech saved and Belletti cleared the loose ball on the rebound. Ten minutes later, Frank Lampard unleashed a rasping drive at the Bolton goal that Jaaskelainen spilled back into the field of play, only for his defence to save him.
Twenty minutes had been played when Florent Malouda missed a glorious opportunity to give Chelsea the lead. A lucky break and poor defending saw him end up one on one with Jaaskelainen, but his finish lacked control as he blasted over from just inside the box. It was a glorious opportunity spurned by the Frenchman. On the half hour, Diouf beat Ashley Cole with ease, before teeing up Ivan Campo from the edge of the box; however his powerfully placed shot was expertly palmed around the post by the gigantic figure of Petr Čech.
Minutes later, Čech was called into action again, this time to make a world class save at the feet of Anelka. Guthrie intercepted Lampard’s pass and set the Bolton forward away; Anelka dummying around Terry a little too easily, with the Chelsea captain off balance. Čech’s judgment was perfect as ever as he rushed from his goal to save Anelka’s eventual shot. World class goalkeeping from the world’s finest.
Čech’s heroics paid off in the 40th minute, as Chelsea scored the only goal of the match. The keeper’s long ball was flicked on by Malouda, before a mix up between Jaaskelainen and Meite allowed Kalou a sniff at goal. The Ivorian managed to chip over the keeper, and hold off the recovering Meite, before volleying powerfully into the net from a tight angle once the ball had dropped. It was an almost uncharacteristically good finish from Kalou, who had struggled in front of goal in recent matches. It was Chelsea’s first goal in the Premier League for 460 minutes.
The second half started, sans Kalou, as he was replaced with an injury. Claudio Pizarro was his replacement, Shevchenko once more having to wait for his opportunity.
It wasn’t until the 71st minute that the next real attempt at goal occurred, the substitute Pizarro flashing a strike just wide to the left after a neat reverse pass from Frank Lampard.
Two minutes later, the chance for Shevchenko did come, as he replaced the wasteful Malouda, but the Ukrainian was parked out on the left wing for the remainder of the match. Worryingly, he hardly posed a threat during his 17 minute cameo.
Anelka’s free kick from the edge of the box was blasted high into the stand, after Sidwell carelessly handballed, the sighs of relief almost audible from the Chelsea fans.
With seven minutes to go, Joe Cole found space to shoot, but did so straight at Jaaskelainen. Paulo Ferreira then replaced the England winger as Grant pushed Belletti into midfield for the final few minutes.
Greek midfielder Stelios was Bolton’s final substitution and he almost snatched a point late on. Ferreira’s poor far post header dropped straight at the feet of Anelka, who placed a cross perfectly into the box. Stelios leapt high and won the header and with Čech beaten, it grazed the top of the crossbar. Chelsea survived the two minutes of stoppage time and the threat of Jaaskelainen attacking a corner, to take all three points from the Reebok for the fourth visit in a row.
Avram Grant’s tenure at Chelsea is well and truly up and running and although he doesn’t ooze the charisma of José Mourinho, he has certainly mastered the art of post match subtlety. His side did well in the absence of big name stars and hopefully with a two week international break, the Blues players will shine for their nations and return fit and ready to take Chelsea back to the top of the Premiership.
Bolton (4-3-3): Jaaskelainen; J O’Brien (Stelios 85), A O’Brien, Meite, Gardner; McCann, Campo, Guthrie; Davies (c), Anelka, Diouf (Wilhelmsson 66).
Chelsea (4-3-3): Čech; Belletti, Carvalho, Terry (c), A Cole; Makelélé, Lampard, Sidwell; J Cole (Ferreira 83), Kalou (Pizarro 45), Malouda (Shevchenko 73).
Referee Alan Wiley