Chelsea 4 – 0 Bolton


    Chelsea gave their title defence a boost with an emphatic victory over Bolton at the Reebok Stadium. Didier Drogba gave the visitors an early lead against the run of play with an audacious volley from 30 yards out.
    Matt Taylor almost levelled with a bullet header but Petr Cech saved well before Florent Malouda scored at the other end from a tight angle.
    Nicolas Anelka hit a third with a left foot shot in the corner and Ramires finished it with a side-foot volley. Chelsea arrived at the Reebok looking to continue an unbeaten away run against Bolton that stretched back 13 years.
    Perhaps more importantly, the reigning champions were seeking to reverse a loss of form that, in recent months, had seen them fall behind in the Premier League title race.
    With not only Manchester United, but Arsenal and Manchester City sitting above them in the table, and with the advantage over fifth placed Tottenham based on goal difference only, Chelsea needed all three points to stay in touch.
    But even though a poor start to 2011 has seen Bolton without a win this year, the hosts were not in the top half of the Premier League table without merit and they dominated the opening exchanges.
    Bulgarian midfielder Martin Petrov found Johan Elmander with a high cross in the box for Bolton’s best opening chance but as the Swede flicked on in the box to Kevin Davies, the captain failed to test Petr Cech.
    Central defensive duo Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry, who was playing after suffering a rib injury, looked jittery as the home side continued to probe the Chelsea area in the first 10 minutes.
    Until this match, Bolton had suffered just one home defeat all season, while Chelsea had lost five league games away this term, but the form book was torn up by Drogba.
    Having nicked the ball off defender Gretar Steinsson, Malouda found the Ivorian whose blistering shot dipped into the top of Jussi Jaaskelainen’s net from around 30 yards out.
    Bolton old boy Anelka had a chance to extend the visitors lead, but defender Zat Knight made a fine saving tackle in the box to thwart the France international.
    Owen Coyle’s players were denied their own chance to score moments later when Petrov provided a teasing cross from the left which Matt Taylor met with a bullet header, but Cech acrobatically pushed the effort around the post.
    But it was Chelsea who found the back of the net next, this time after Malouda, who was standing almost on the byline, slammed the ball against the legs of Gary Cahill before slotting the rebound into the goal from a tight angle.
    It was 3-0 to Chelsea just after the break, Michael Essien pulling the ball back into the area from the line and though Knight was able to prevent Drogba from getting a shot off, the ball fell to Anelka who volleyed into the bottom corner.
    Bolton boss Coyle introduced Mark Davies into the fray just after the hour and the midfielder almost netted after a smart one-two with Elmander, but the advancing Cech bravely grabbed the ball off his toe.
    Any hopes of a Bolton revival were ended, though, when Essien turned another decent effort into the penalty area and Brazilian midfielder Ramires hit a side-footed shot beyond Jaaskelainen to bring the scoreline to 4-0 – the same as in last season’s encounter between the two sides.
    Mark Davies continued to probe the Chelsea goal but Cech was quick to extinguish the 22-year-old’s efforts and Bolton survived a late penalty appeal as Paul Robinson looked to have caught Anelka in the area, but referee Chris Hoy waved play on.
    Chelsea now sit seven points behind leaders Manchester United, who have a game in hand but travel to Blackpool on Tuesday, while Bolton drop to tenth on goal difference to Stoke and Newcastle.