Chelsea kept the Bridge faithful on edge with an underwhelming 1-0 victory over Bolton on Tuesday night. Nicolas Anelka’s header before half-time provided the winner and it sends Chelsea four points clear of Manchester United with four matches left to go.
Chelsea, fresh off a win over Villa on Saturday, made three changes to their side from the weekend, recalling Michael Ballack in the midfield and bringing in Salomon Kalou and Nicolas Anelka to flank Didier Drogba up front. It proved to be a good move early on, as Yuri Zhirkov found loads of space on the left with Anelka drifting inside. Zhirkov took advantage and created a beautiful chance for Drogba in the fifth minute, but the Ivorian could only curl the ball over the bar.
Midway through the first half, Drogba created Chelsea’s second best chance of the first half when Jussi Jaaskelainen could only parry his free kick into the head of Kalou, but the ball deflected wide.
John Terry and Zhirkov caused the crowd a bit of worry with early injuries. Terry appeared to injure his ankle after a collision with Matthew Taylor but was able to carry on. Likewise, Zhirkov would require a head bandage after an aerial collision with Kevin Davies. Zhirkov would eventually leave the pitch with seven minutes in the half, presumably for stitches, but continued on afterward.
Minutes later, Anelka got the breakthrough the Blues were looking for as a Drogba cross found him unmarked at the far post, leaving the Frenchman an easy header.
After the break, the hosts continued to pile on the pressure with Kalou and Drogba tormenting the Bolton defense. In the 54th, Drogba found space to run at the Bolton back line and played a wonderful angled ball for Kalou. Kalou was left with just the keeper to beat, but Jaaskelainen got down low to save.
Controversy then ensued as Terry appeared to handle a Chung Yong Lee cross into the hands of Cech, but the linesman was convinced that the ball hit his chest and waved play on.
Chelsea nearly put the game out of reach a number of times in the late stages of the game. Ballack could only head a Joe Cole cross from point blank range and Frank Lampard hit the post with a driving shot from 20 yards.
The Blues were almost made to pay for wasting their chances in the dying moments as Johan Elmander was gifted a header near the six yard box, but his effort flew wide of the Chelsea goal.
Chelsea will know that they weren’t at their best by any stretch, but will take comfort in the fact that they will know what result is needed against Tottenham, since the Manchester derby takes place earlier.