Chelsea eased the pressure of Andre Villas-Boas after a confident display against Bolton Wanderers. The sun shined on a glorious afternoon in Stamford Bridge, and AVB could ask for nothing more from his players, who saw out a Bolton side in a crisis of their own. The first half proved to be an edgy affair, but once David Luiz, much-maligned for his defensive deficiencies, got the breakthrough early in the second half, Chelsea looked in control. Daylight was added when Drogba proved again why he should start ahead of Torres, with a typical centre forward header, with Lampard adding the cherry on top, to become the first player in Premier League history to score double figures in the league in nine consecutive seasons.
The team selection was one to please the traditionalists, with Cole, Lampard and Essien coming back into the starting eleven after being left out on that dreadful night in Naples. Many Chelsea fans were not shedding a tear that the trio of Bosingwa, Malouda and Meireles had to make way.
The early signs were not all good though for Chelsea, and the atmosphere inside the ground was one of anticipation, often muted, fearful of potentially another match without a win. Gary Cahill, against his former club, had to be alert, but with Essien holding, it offered protection that had be lacking of late in case Luiz wandered forward. Sturridge, whose Bolton loan deal last year did him wonders, was showing no mercy and threatened all match, but his first attempt was straight at Bogdan, who conceded five in the reverse fixture earlier in the season.
Frank Lampard was proving AVB, perhaps his biggest critic, wrong with a trademark run, but his angle was narrow when Sturridge fed him through, the ball eventually going for a corner.
Sturridge continued to cut in all the time, and bar a few attempts well held by the Bolton keeper, precious little else happened in a subdued battle, with Bolton more than happy to sit and bide their time, and though Chelsea dominated at least on the possession front, Bogdan was yet to be severely tested.
That was about to change three minutes into the first half. David Luiz was given a licence to roam and when his pass to Ramires ricocheted off a Bolton defender’s knee, the Brazilian calmly curled a beautiful effort home, a goal Torres would have yearned for.
The nerves were settled at least and the Chelsea crowd began singing, but it was nearly muted when Reo-Coker fired inches wide from the edge of the penalty area.
David Luiz nearly doubled his tally for the match when he ghosted into the box, but his header from Mata’s corner was cleared off the line by on-loan striker Miyaichi.
Desperate to see Bolton off, Drogba latched onto Mata’s pass but his effort clipped the top of the crossbar. But the powerful Ivorian did not have to wait too long after to get his name on the scoresheet. Lampard’s corner was beautifully lifted and Drogba guided the ball past Bogdan: 2-0, and the relief around the ground was deafeningly silent.
With the second goal came patience. Chelsea were more than willing to hold out for a 2-0 lead, knowing Bolton were the ones who needed to force the game. Essien hit a long-range shot that just went wide, whilst stand-in captain Frank Lampard nearly scored to cap off a marvellous outing for him.
Torres was introduced with fifteen minutes to go, but Lampard eventually did show him how its done with a typical goal. Mata floated a ball in to a position where Torres ought to have been, Lampard opted not to stoop and head low, instead waiting for the ball to drop before volleying home off the ground.
Three goals, and three points. AVB has some more breathing space, in front of a watchful owner. In the meantime, the race for fourth place continues.