Chelsea’s march to overturn a ten-point deficit in the title race began Monday with a 4-0 demolition of a surprisingly poor Bolton side at the Reebok Stadium. A stunning strike from Didier Drogba just ten minutes in set the tone for the match, with Florent Malouda and Nicolas Anelka also chipping in with goals. Ramires opened his scoring account with a goal late as the Blues showed a ruthlessness in front of goal that, perhaps, hasn’t been seen since the opening weeks of the season.
With Bolton honouring the memory of the Lion of Vienna, Nat Lofthouse, the hosts came out of the gate with real intent. Stuart Holden nearly took advantage of a shaky clearance from John Terry in the 1st minute, but screwed his shot wide of Petr Cech’s goal. Moments later, Kevin Davies got free from a Johan Elmander flick on but could only head straight at Cech.
As the hosts gained momentum, Drogba silenced the home crowd with his awe-inspiring shot. Collecting the ball from Malouda, the Ivorian took two touches before unleashing an unstoppable shot from 30 yards that changed directions twice in the air, before dropping just under the crossbar and Jussi Jaaskelainen’s hand to put the Blues 1-0 up.
That strike seemed to take the fight out of Bolton and Chelsea quickly gained control of the match. Drogba forced a decent save after being released through the left channel and Jaaskelainen was able to palm away. Drogba got another chance from a free kick just outside the box, but wasn’t able to keep the ball down and it sailed over the bar.
Chelsea doubled their lead before half time after some scrappy play in the box. John Mikel Obi’s cross was half cleared and fell to Malouda on the right side of the box. Malouda’s initial shot was blocked by Gary Cahilll but the rebound came back to him and Malouda slotted home from a tight angle just inside Jaaskelainen’s near post.
Bolton had a chance to get one back before the break when Elmander’s overhead kick caught Petr Cech by surprise, but Cech was able to divert the ball wide of the post.
The second half was all Chelsea and they continued to dicate the play. 55 minutes on, the Blues got the third goal that their play deserved. Michael Essien’s cross found Drogba and with the striker’s initial shot blocked, the ball fell to Anelka who cooly fired home.
That goal sparked to the benches to life and Owen Coyle was the first to ring in the changes. Substitute Mark Davies almost pulled one back for Bolton after a clever one-two with Elmander released him, but Cech rushed out and pulled the ball off his toe.
Ramires got the fourth goal for the Blues on 74 minutes when Anelka’s attempted shot from another Essien cross was blocked and the much maligned midfielder was on hand to sweep home from just inside the box.
Chelsea very nearly had a chance for a fifth goal from the penalty spot when Paul Robinson was beaten by Anelka and took him down in the box but Chris Foy, perhaps offering his sympathy to the hosts, waved play on.
While the Blues were not always at their brilliant best, they produced the form that won them the title last season by putting on a finishing clinic. With two games versus United and a gap of just seven points, a repeat title seems much closer than it did a few weeks ago.