Premiership: Bolton Wanderers 0 – 1 Chelsea

Match reports

The Times, Matt Dickinson: “It says everything about Chelsea’s strengths that they actually enjoy their visits to the Reebok Stadium, a ground where the contest is never less than physically intense. This was their third successive triumph here under José Mourinho, and it left the Portuguese expressing delight at his side’s position in the Premiership after their short northern tour of duty.”

The Guardian, Kevin McCarra: “The casual observer would never have guessed that Chelsea were handicapped, yet Mourinho had to make do without Arjen Robben and Joe Cole. Both are injured and Cole will be missing for at least two weeks. There was no sense, despite those absences, that Bolton were being let off lightly. The visitors could have gone in front sooner than they did, with Ricardo Carvalho heading a Lampard corner against a post in the 21st minute. Bolton, particularly before the interval, struggled to generate momentum.”

The Independent, Sam Wallace: “No surprise that Michael Ballack’s winning goal in first-half injury-time was from a corner because set-piece attacks were how both sides approached the match – like two artillery outposts shelling the front lines. It was at Bolton that Chelsea ended their 50-year wait to be English champions in 2005, this time there was nothing quite so memorable. Just a refusal to succumb to Bolton that was symbolised by John Terry.”

Daily Telegraph, Henry Winter: “Few outside Old Trafford would bet against Chelsea keeping the heat on United, particularly as Mourinho’s players have yet to hit individual heights. Last night indicated that some are regaining sharpness. With Ballack playing a pivotal part, and Andrei Shevchenko revealing glimpses of his undoubted class, Mourinho was rewarded for staying loyal to two stars who so conspicuously failed to shine against United.”

The good

  1. Another 3 points at Bolton, our fourth consecutive Premiership victory at the Reebok Stadium. In the long run this win will prove just as important as last season’s. As Jose Mourinho said after the game, “With the very good run [Manchester United] are having they have to be frustrated with a three-point lead.” The relentlessness shown by Chelsea under Mourinho is akin to a pack of wolves hunting: United will be pursued until they inevitably falter or tire, at which point their title challenge will die.
  2. I was impressed with the team as a whole, not one player stood out. The midfield, while narrow, played well and bossed the game, particularly in the first half. Frank Lampard just about shaded it as the best of the quartet, although the two Michaels, Essien and Ballack, were equally as influential. John Terry epitomised the team’s never-say-die spirit, refusing to succumb to Bolton’s increasing reliance on long balls and aerial pressure.
  3. Carlo Cudicini. His hesitancy at crosses and high balls continues to cause problems at the back, but he showed last night just what an exceptional shot stopper he is. Without him we might have come away from the North West two points further behind the Red Devils.
  4. As half-time approached, Sky television’s cliché-ridden, platitude-spouting commentator Andy Gray chose to highlight the minimal impact Michael Ballack and Andriy Shevchenko were having on the game. A matter of seconds later, Shevchenko cleverly turned away from three Bolton players and unleashed a magnificent shot from 30 yards which Jussi Jaaskelainen did well to turn over, and Ballack nodded in the resulting corner. Say no more.

The bad

  1. The pressure we put ourselves under in the closing minutes. We were by far the better team yet found ourselves holding on at the end, to the point where Cudicini had to make a great save to prevent us throwing away two points. This is not a criticism as such, I’ll take three points no matter how they’re won, it’s just that I’m sure there are times when we could put a little more effort into putting games beyond our opponents instead of holding out for a 1-0.

Man of the Match

Frank Lampard.

Final thoughts

Peter summed it up best. Earlier in the season Mourinho was aware that the team would probably struggle to produce good, consistent form during the first few months of the campaign, what with having to adapt to a new formation, losing a few key players in the summer, and those players’ replacements needing time to find their feet in the Premiership. We’ve also had to come to terms with losing the world’s best goalkeeper to injury.

Yet we find ourselves just three points behind United who have made their best ever start to a Premiership season, who are playing their best football, and who have yet to experience the inevitable dip in form.

The future’s bright.

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