Chelsea despatched Wolves with consummate ease to relieve some pressure on manager Andre Villas-Boas. After a poor run of form, Villas-Boas would have wanted his side to hit the ground running against a Wolves side having difficulties themselves, and that was exactly what they did. John Terry gave the hosts some breathing space with a well-taken goal in seven minutes. Mata, the creator, provided another assist for Sturridge, before rounding off his performance with a well-deserved goal of his own.
AVB once again decided to change things. Benched was Lampard, with Oriol Romeu handed the holding role. Ashley Cole came back in, whilst Luiz and Terry continued to form a partnership at the back.
The first half started brightly for Chelsea. Meireles, who is proving to be a snip at £12 million from Liverpool, shot agonisingly wide for Chelsea in the opening moments. That was a sign of things to come. Milijas dallied on the ball five minutes later, and Ramires dispossessed him. With room to shoot, the Brazilian duly did, forcing a good save from Hennessey. The opening goal was from the resulting corner. Juan Mata floated in an out-swinger, and John Terry leapt above David Luiz to head home. The captain rolled away in jubilation – it was just one goal, but with Chelsea’s run of form and Terry coming under increasing pressure himself, it was a great way to show his critics he was not passed it just yet.
Wolves did not press Chelsea as much as Mick McCarthy would have wanted his side to, much to the relief of the Chelsea defence, under intense scrutiny these last few weeks. At the other end, Chelsea were still causing Wolves many problems. The second goal came twenty minutes later. Romeu spread the ball wide, and the ball landed at the feet of Mata. Doing well to stay upright with Zubar looming large over him, he sent in a delicious ball, which Sturridge despatched with great aplomb: a great centre-forward’s goal, and great thinking from the Englishman, who, being the right-winger, came in into the box and found space.
McCarthy had had enough. With still some time left in the first half, he brought on Ebanks-Blake to support Fletcher up top. But that did not put Chelsea off. The third goal again came from the left side. Ashley Cole found space, and his pass was half-volleyed into the roof od the net by Juan Mata: a quality goal that no Wolves defender could react quick enough to, and another piece of silky football, a testament Mata’s influential role since his summer move from Valencia. And all this was in the first half.
The second half was not so productive for Chelsea, who opted more to sit and keep a much-needed clean sheet. the ever-energetic Ramires still caused havoc along with Ivanovic on the right-hand side, whilst Sturridge had a couple of good chances to make it a thrashing. Frank Lampard came on before the 70 minute mark to shore things up, on for Meireles. Drogba was proving to be a handful for the Wolves defenders and often used his strength to draw defenders in and therefore free other team-mates. Cech had to make a good double save late in the half, but was relatively untested. Drogba and Ivanovic went off for Torres and Bosingwa with ten minutes left, but neither of them could reignite the Chelsea spark. Terry picked up a needless yellow card for time-wasting, ruling him out of the Carling Cup tie mid-week, but the cynic would argue that this meant he had a clean record going into a busy league schedule over the festive period.
A much-needed Chelsea win for AVB. Some lovely football at times, but the clean sheet will do Chelsea a whole lot more in terms of confidence.
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