Malouda 22, Kalou 80
In a game riddled with poor passing and woeful finishing, two moments of sheer quality were all that separated Chelsea and Wolves at Stamford Bridge.
Salomon Kalou returned from injury but could only make the bench as Chelsea made just a single change to the side that saw off Spartak Moscow in the Champions League on Tuesday. Fit-again Bosingwa replaced Paulo Ferreira at full back and instantly added balance to Ashley Cole’s marauding runs. The Portugese international had been out of the game for a year before making his Stamford Bridge return this weekend, and drew the plaudits with a host of weaving runs, mirroring the ever present Cole on the opposite flank.
To their credit, the visitors kicked-off and instantly showed their teeth. Kevin Doyle set the tone and spent most of his afternoon embroiled in a good old fashion tussle with centre back Branislav Ivanovic. Wolves – coming into the game without a win in eight – played a dangerous game and attacked the champions, hounding them at every turn. Mick McCarthy’s side have yet to concede in the opening twenty minutes of any game this season and their resolute defending seemed to be paying dividends as Chelsea failed to find the early breakthrough that has been the foundation of so many victories this term.
So in essence – with the game only two minutes old – it was fitting that reborn Yuri Zhirkov be heavily involved in Chelsea’s opener. After a jinxing run from his own half, the Russian played a clever one-two with Nicolas Anelka before showing great awareness to cut back for Florent Malouda, who registered his seventh goal in as many Premier League games. The host’s decisive clincher came after a string of second-half misses, most accountable of who was Didier Drogba, whose wastefulness was optimised when he failed to shoot even with the oncoming Marcus Hahnemann 30 yards off his line. After some neat interchanging, Kalou eventually sealed matters with a cool finish and condemn a dogged Wolves to an undeserved defeat.
With Zhrikov finally getting a chance to shine in West London, Chelsea seem to have stumbled upon a potential replacement for the crocked Frank Lampard. Though Chelsea’s number 18 possess merely a fragment of Lampard’s goal scoring expertise, the explosive winger come attacking playmaker is comfortable on the ball and confident enough in possession to attack his opponents head on, injecting some much needed tempo into a side that is steadily losing momentum.
In fact, the three league games this term in which Chelsea were not expected to dominate have returned just three goals and four points. A goal-less stalemate at Villa was swiftly rectified with a Drogba flick and thunderous Alex free-kick against Arsenal, but defeat at Eastlands was a painful reminder that the title race is far from over. Chelsea’s blistering start to the season appears to have evaporated as injuries begin to pile up and continental fixtures come into play, and with a trip to Ewood park on the horizon, a much improved showing will be required if Ancelotti is to take all three points and capitalise on Manchester City’s first home defeat of the season.
17 Bosingwa – 26 Terry – 2 Ivanovic – 3 Cole
5 Essien – 12 Mikel – 18 Zhirkov
39 Anelka – 11 Drogba – 15 Malouda
72 – 21 Kalou on for 15 Malouda
78 – 19 Ferreira on for 17 Bosingwa
82 – 46 McEachran on for 18 Zhirkov