Chelsea got back to winning ways, securing a first win in five, by defeating Wolves 2-1 at Molineux on bank holiday Monday, in a game that almost once again resulted in dropped points before Frank Lampard got the winner with a mere couple of minutes remaining.
The result enabled the Blues to regain their place in the top four, on a day where Arsenal later lost away to Fulham.
Chelsea started in a slightly different formation, in what looked like a 4-4-1-1 with a diamond midfield of Romeu, Ramires, Lampard and Meireles, with Mata tucking in behind Torres. Sturridge’s hip problem and Drogba’s calf injury ruled both of them out. The old 4-3-3 was seen on occasions though, as Ramires ventured out to the right a lot, linking up well with Torres, who had a good game and whose contribution shouldn’t be understated, and Mata. The only change to the back five was Bosingwa replacing Ferreira at right back. Chelsea’s bench, consisting of Turnbull, Ferreira, Hutchinson, Bertrand, Chalobah, McEachran and Lukaku had a slightly youthful look to it and maybe a sign of things to come before Sunday’s FA Cup game against Portsmouth. McEachran was the only one who managed to get any game time though, when he replaced Mata on the 83rd minute. This was the first league game in which Andre failed to make all three substitutes.
The start was cagey and tedious, both sides seemingly desperate not to make an early mistake having both suffered poor form in recent times. Chelsea had the first real chance on the 8th minute, when a lovely through ball from Torres was raced on to by Mata but he couldn’t quite find the target when dipping the ball over Hennessey. Chelsea were now starting to make the most of their possession and were creating, Ramires hit the side netting and Lampard had a shot blocked by Stearman.
The game then started to become feisty, as both teams made reckless challenges and tested the patience of Peter Walton, who booked three players in just over three minutes, Lampard after a challenge on Hammill, and then Hammill himself and Henry for Wolves. Many of the Wolves faithful felt Cole should have at least been booked if not sent off when he kicked out at Doyle, but it would be Romeu who would be the next name in Walton’s book.
Wolves started to have chances of their own as the half drew to a close, Johnson, a self-confessed Chelsea fan, came close from a header and Ward shot wide from a Hammill cross. After those chances, Chelsea attacked nicely but couldn’t create any openings and the last chance of the half fell to Kevin Doyle at the other end, but he shot just wide.
McCarthy brought on Jarvis for Forde at half time, and he immediately looked dangerous, making a blissful run in behind the Chelsea defence, but his cross to Hammill in the end fortunately came to nothing. Chelsea tried to step it up at the other end, with Torres looking lively. It was him who won the corner from which Ramires buried the ball high into the top corner from eight yards to put us 1-0 up. The celebration and show of unity when running to Andre after the goal, something he recently requested, was a delight to see, despite the fact Terry and Lampard didn’t quite make the huddle on time.
McCarthy reacted to the goal by bringing Fletcher on for Arsenal loanee Frimpong, who had a fairly quiet debut. Chelsea went forward looking for a second, Torres hit a Ramires cross over on the volley and Ramires himself hit a shot straight at Hennessey from a tight angle. Mata then hit the side netting as Chelsea started to control the game.
McEachran then came on for Mata, right before we were left cursing our luck again as Fletcher successfully kept the ball in play and played it on to Ward whose finish beat Cech and levelled the score. Andre’s face said it all, disappointingly we found ourselves level in a game we should have sewn up and it felt all too much like Wigan all over again. The lack of options on the bench and the fact Mata, one of our main creative sparks, must have worried him but cometh the hour, cometh the man and Frank Lampard the Chelsea legend’s 179th goal vitally gave us the three points and propelled us back into the top four.
There was however still time for one more worrying moment, as Cech was the hour at the other end in tipping away a close-range header from a long throw in what was to be the last action of the game. The Chelsea faithful that had travelled to the Midlands went away smiling hoping the tide had finally changed in our favour.