Chelsea almost throw it away against Bolton

11 April 2009 06:48
To the astonishment of all, the home team conceded three goals in nine minutes – a repeat on Tuesday and Liverpool will discover a Champions League reprieve.

When Didier Drogba prodded home Chelsea's fourth just past the hour it was anybody's guess what the final tally would become. Bolton were deflated while Chelsea were still riding the wave of Anfield success. What no one could have predicted was that the centre-forward's close range prod would become the day's decisive strike.

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Cech was beaten on that occasion and he looked none too clever as Bolton's direct approach and aerial strength began paying dividends, Kevin Davies twice winning headers for Chris Basham and Matthew Taylor to turn in. The marathon pursuit of Manchester United and Liverpool looked to have run its course but Ivanovic and the referee's whistle came to Chelsea's rescue.

'We were sloppy and too relaxed,' said managrer Guus Hiddink. 'We conceded three goals in nine minutes which is impossible for a team near the top of the table.' Then with an eye on Liverpool's visit he warned: 'It has happened once, it must not happen twice.'

Michael Essien, whose role in placing Steven Gerrard in handcuffs at Anfield was a major factor in Chelsea's first-leg victory, was rested but Ricardo Carvalho, who will be needed for the Champions League return with John Terry out through suspension, made yet another return from injury.

Along with the rest of Hiddink's defence, Carvalho strolled through the first hour. With just one lone striker, Bolton were not equipped to peg Chelsea back before the jitters set in. With their opponents sharp in their passing and movement, the encounter had a grim inevitability as far as Gary Megson's team were concerned. Frank Lampard shot low and a deflection took the sting out of the attempt, then he forced Jussi Jaaskelainen to shovel aside a free-kick.

When Michael Ballack let fly the ball only just cleared the crossbar. By now there were ten Bolton bodies concentrating on defence and when Ballack was next involved it finally produced the breakthrough, the German feeding Salomon Kalou's run and then in place to sweep home the return pass.

Bolton rallied before the break and Johan Elmander and Davies both had a good sight of goal. Then at the start of the second half they conceded again as Drogba crashed home a free-kick which Lampard had rolled square.

By the 64th minute it was 4-0 as Lampard converted a penalty after Gretar Steinsson had handled before Drogba grabbed his second. All over bar the shouting? Far from it as Bolton, scoring first through Andrew O'Brien's scrambled effort, sensed a fallibility in Chelsea's rearguard. Not for a long time have the Stamford Bridge patrons been so relieved to hear the final whistle.


Source: Telegraph