Chelsea ease pressure on AVB
Second-half salvo sees off Bolton at Stamford Bridge
By James Riach at Stamford Bridge. Last Updated: 25/02/12 5:40pm
Three second-half goals saw Chelsea ease to a 3-0 victory over Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League and lift the pressure on Andre Villas-Boas.
With Roman Abramovich watching in the stands, Bolton frustrated the home side in a first-half of few chances, Adam Bogdan making a particularly impressive save to deny Daniel Sturridge.
But soon after the restart Chelsea were in front, David Luiz with a marauding run forward from defence, curling a sumptuous effort into the far corner from just inside the area.
Nigel Reo-Coker then dragged an effort narrowly wide for Wanderers but it was 2-0 soon later, Didier Drogba nodding Frank Lampard's corner into the net from close range.
Lampard then got his name on the scoresheet, finishing well at the far post to seal the victory following an excellent cross from Juan Mata.
Villas-Boas recalled Lampard, Ashley Cole and Michael Essien, who were controversially left out of Tuesday night's Champions League defeat at Napoli, sparking further reports of dressing-room unrest.
The Chelsea boss stood by his Naples line-up, insisting it was picked purely on footballing reasons, but he admitted on Thursday he was forced to explain it to owner Abramovich.
That merely fuelled speculation Villas-Boas was on borrowed time at Stamford Bridge, with the club's season in danger of unravelling completely.
But their opponents might have been hand picked for the home side, with Bolton enduring an even more miserable campaign.
Chelsea certainly made the more impressive start, Sturridge testing Bogdan inside five minutes after a burst from the halfway line before finding Lampard with a superb through ball, the midfielder just failing to shake off his marker.
Drogba also had a couple of sniffs but the lack of confidence that has dogged the Blues' play of late was soon evident as they struggled to fashion a meaningful opportunity.
Abramovich, attending his first game since the 3-3 draw against Manchester United three weeks earlier, looked on pensively as well-drilled Bolton continued to frustrate his expensively-assembled side.
They finally had Bogdan at full stretch in the 29th minute when he palmed away Drogba's left-foot curler, while David Wheater had to be alert to stop Sturridge finishing Luiz's raking pass.
Chelsea were only really looking dangerous on the break and their half was summed up when Branislav Ivanovic and Drogba ran into each other running onto Lampard's inviting ball.
Bolton were even less of a threat and Darren Pratley - making his first league start for more than two months - was booked for an obvious dive trying to win a penalty before Ryo Miyaichi had their first real effort when he fired over on the stroke of half-time.
Chelsea were in dire need of inspiration and it arrived less than three minutes after the restart.
Luiz - clearly under orders to rampage forward - won the ball high up the pitch, carried on his run forward and profited when Wheater failed to clear, curling a lovely finish beyond Bogdan.
The celebrations were hardly raucous, with the nervousness of a side that had kept only two clean sheets at home in the league all season quickly apparent when Nigel Reo-Coker drilled wide from the edge of the box.
That almost subsided when Chelsea then hit the woodwork twice inside two minutes, Luiz's header from a corner glancing the post before Drogba curled Juan Mata's pass against the top of the crossbar after another breakaway.
There was no stopping the striker in the 61st minute when he shook off Fabrice Muamba to nod in Lampard's corner, the midfielder significantly taking the plaudits as the home fans sang "super Frankie Lampard".
It should have been 3-0 when Ivanovic finished weakly after Essien's drive was parried by Bogdan before Bolton threw on Marvin Sordell for David Ngog.
The change had little effect and Chris Eagles soon joined Sordell, with Tuncay Sanli coming off, before Chelsea suffered a blow when Drogba limped off to be replaced by Fernando Torres for the last 14 minutes.
A goal arrived three minutes later, but it was Lampard who got it, stealing in at the back post to cushion Mata's cross past Bogdan for his 12th goal of the season.
Sturridge then came off for Salomon Kalou, Torres - axed by Spain yesterday - curled over from a tight angle with his only chance and John Obi Mikel replaced Ramires.
Kalou almost nodded in number four in stoppage-time as Chelsea enjoyed a rare trouble-free final 10 minutes.
Barclays Premier League
|6||West Ham United||19||31|
|15||Queens Park Rangers||19||18|
|16||West Bromwich Albion||19||17|
Chelsea v Bolton
Andre Villas-Boas insists he does not want Frank Lampard to leave Chelsea despite a much-publicised bust-up.
Bolton manager Owen Coyle lamented his side's second-half display following their 3-0 defeat at Chelsea.
Chelsea manager Andre Villas-Boas defended his rotation policy following the 3-0 victory over Bolton in the Premier League.