Chelsea coasted to a 3-0 win against a rather unimpressive Bolton Wanderers side, putting to bed a string of horrendous results via goals from David Luiz, Didier Drogba and Frank Lampard. It was a necessary result to stabilise the side, and should leave everyone (except Bolton fans, I suppose) feeling pretty happy.
Andre Villas-Boas has picked up a lot of stick for dropping Frank Lampard for the midweek defeat against Napoli, and he reinstated the Chelsea legend for this match. Ashley Cole and Michael Essien were also restored to the side, with Florent Malouda, Raul Meireles and Jose Bosingwa all mercifully absent. Bolton replied with a very weak lineup that featured a pair of new faces in centre back Tim Ream and on-loan winger Ryo Miyaichi.
Things started as you'd expect from a match between these two clubs, with Chelsea very much on the front foot and looking to slice through the visitors' defence. The first five minutes featured nearly constant pressure, with Bolton seeing virtually none of the ball, but as the game went on the tempo died down and the visitors got something of a foothold.
That doesn't mean Chelsea weren't by far the better team in that first half, however. The Blues were making excellent use of long passes forward - Frank Lampard blew a chance while one on one with Adam Bogdan, Daniel Sturridge had a shot saved after a neat David Luiz pass, and no less than three calls were blown by the linesman as the forwards advanced on Bolton's goal. The story will be that the Blues didn't create anything, but much of that can be explained by some pretty incompetent officiating (and the rest possibly by some bizarre decisions in the final third, many of them from Daniel Sturridge).
It wasn't biased refereeing though: Bolton were getting some pretty harsh calls as well. What was basically their only attack of the half ended as Darren Pratley went down at the edge of the box, with Mark Oliver brandishing a yellow card for diving. Replays later showed that Pratley had been tripped by either himself or Essien - whatever it was, it was no dive.
Everyone was pretty frustrated by the fact that Chelsea hadn't scored by the halfway mark, but the mood was was eased almost immediately after the restart thanks to David Luiz, who was apparently bored of hitting long passes and decided on a more direct way of helping his team get on the scoresheet. The curly-haired centre half made a telling interception high up the pitch, played a pass out to Drogba on the left and then ran onto the ball when it popped loose in the box. He took one touch to push the ball onto his right boot before curling an excellent shot past Bogdan to give the Blues a 1-0 lead.
Immediately after the goal, Bolton surged forwards, seemingly catching the Chelsea defence flat-footed. They hadn't had much to do up to that point in the match, to be fair, but they put a lot of pressure on themselves by refusing to play sensible passes out of the back - a blind backheel by Didier Drogba that lost possession in the Chelsea half was the worst of the many offences - and for a time it looked like the visitors would be able to press Petr Cech's goal fairly hard.
As it turns out, that spell of pressure was nothing more than an illusion. Chelsea soon settled and then threatened again, with David Luiz smacking the post from a corner* before Drogba grazed the crossbar at the end of a sweeping counterattack. Five minutes after the Drogba hit, the Blues were 2-0 up thanks to some bizarre defending on a corner which allowed Drogba to power a header towards Bogdan's far post. Ryo Miyaichi was stationed there and may well have kept it out, but the Japanese winger opted to stand on the outside of the upright and could only help it in.
*The fact that there were corners from which it was possible to hit the post in the second half was a really refreshing chance from the hilarious display of ineptitude in the first.
At that point, it was game over. David Luiz and Branislav Ivanovic combined for an amusing miss four yards out, the two defenders getting in each other's way (Ivanovic did that a lot this game, for reasons unknown), and Drogba, trying to keep up the pressure, managed to injure himself while fouling Tuncay with a very late challenge. Eventually he was forced to withdraw for Fernando Torres, but that didn't stop Chelsea from scoring again when Frank Lampard popped up at the far post to volley home a Juan Mata cross.
Bolton probably should have had a penalty in the very late going, with Ashley Cole somehow avoiding punishment for committing and obvious foul in the box, but the game was well and truly over by that point and Chelsea looked far more likely to add a fourth than the Trotters did to ruin Cech's clean sheet. Torres wasted a late opportunity to play in Lampard, opting to shoot himself from a silly angle, but with the match won, you can hardly blame him.
For the first time in a long while, there were no sighs of relief or jeers at Stamford Bridge when the full time whistle blow. Chelsea won comfortably, are back in the top four, and with Newcastle dropping points look to be back in a very good position. More where that game from, please.