Blues back in cruise control

CHELSEA are back, at least their fans think so, after an emphatic 4-0 victory at Bolton that saw Carlo Ancelotti’s side return to the top four in the Premier League and drew a line under what has been a miserable three-month period for the champions.

Goals from Didier Drogba, Florent Malouda, Nicolas Anelka and even Ramires provided an eloquent case that, despite being seven points behind leaders Manchester United, they are not yet out of the title race.

Skipper John Terry supported that belief at the final whistle.

“In the past we’ve never given up,” he said.

“Manchester United are playing well at the moment and getting the right results, maybe getting a bit of luck too.

“But things can change and if we can win both games against them we’ll be right back in it.”

Their performance at the Reebok was so dominant, so convincing, that you could hardly guess this was a side that had not won away from home since beating Blackburn Rovers 2-1 in October and is in the middle of the kind of crisis that had seen so many previous Stamford Bridge managers — even those of the quality of Jose Mourinho — sacked.

But, then, if ever there was a place for Chelsea to end their miserable run of form it was here, where Blues fans have enjoyed so many happy memories.

It was at the Reebok in 2005 that Chelsea won their first title of the modern era, Frank Lampard scoring twice to give Jose Mourinho a championship in his first year in charge. And it was also at the Reebok a year later that Chelsea effectively sealed their second title triumph with another 2-0 victory, Lampard on target again, to the background of yet more wild celebrations in the away end.

Unfortunately for Chelsea, Lampard was missing this time — victim of a calf injury that should heal in time for Saturday’s FA Cup trip to Everton — but it was easy to see why Carlo Ancelotti’s men would go into the fixture full of confidence despite their recent form. And although you cannot compare the celebrations at the final whistle to the emotional moments of years gone by, they were certainly significant.

The Blues opening goal came almost from nothing, Steinsson losing possession at right-back and Drogba thumping an instant and ferocious shot from 30 yards straight down the middle of Jaaskelainen’s goal and into the net.

The second was equally surprising, Malouda squeezing home a shot when criminally left to weigh up his options in the six-yard box just before half-time.

Anelka, a former Bolton striker, made it 3-0 after 56 minutes, again being left unmarked to pick his spot from 18 yards, and Ramires wrapped it up with a 74th minute shot that Jaaskelainen fumbled into the net.

The result is a massive fillip for Chelsea at a time when the Big Four seem to be finally getting their acts together and it provided a long list of positives for manager Ancelotti to consider.

Not least of those was Drogba’ s 10th goal of the season — and his fourth in the last eight games — which seems to indicate he is finally over the bout of malaria that was so harmful to his own form and to Chelsea’s in the run-up to Christmas, so no wonder Chelsea fans sung “Chelsea Are Back” to their hearts content all the way home.

The sight of Drogba and Terry throwing their shirts into the crowd at the final whistle showed just how much this result meant to the champions and just how crucial it could be in their title challenge. How Chelsea wish they could play at the Reebok every week.

Subs for Bolton: Blake for Holden 87, M Davies for Muamba 63, Moreno for Petrov 63.

Subs for Chelsea: McEachran for Mikel 72, Kalou for Ramires 76.

Referee: Chris Foy.

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