Malouda winner brings Chelsea’s nightmare run to an end
Chelsea 1 Bolton 0: Chelsea ended their worst Barclays Premier League run for more than a decade by beating Bolton last night.
Florent Malouda scored his first league goal for more than two months to send the faltering champions back into the top four and ease the pressure on manager Carlo Ancelotti.
Didier Drogba also hit the post but was forced to clear off the line as Bolton had more than enough chances to snatch a point.
Chelsea's first league win in seven lifted them back to within four points of leaders Manchester United, who have a game in hand.
Despite his side having thrown away a five-point lead in the last two months, Ancelotti retained the backing of billionaire owner Roman Abramovich ahead of the game.
The Russian would not have liked what he saw from his Caribbean retreat as the Blues struggled to string two passes together in a miserable first half at a sodden Stamford Bridge.
They did not manage a single shot on target and of the two they did muster, one of them was a Drogba free-kick that embarrassingly screwed out for a throw-in.
Bolton were typically combative and John Terry needed to produce a desperate challenge to prevent Kevin Davies stealing in, while Matthew Taylor drilled wide after latching onto the recalled Jose Bosingwa's attempted clearance.
Branislav Ivanovic was booked for felling Johan Elmander and Chelsea's frustration increased as captain Terry harangued referee Michael Jones after the official elected not to show Paul Robinson a yellow card for a foul on Michael Essien.
Taylor sent a sweet left-foot curler narrowly over as Bolton continued to look the more threatening and there was more bad news for the home side when Drogba began limping.
Chelsea looked no better in the opening four minutes of the second half until, out of nowhere, Frank Lampard produced a wonderful defence-splitting pass for Drogba, whose finish hit the inside of the far post and was cleared to safety.
Nicolas Anelka was flagged narrowly offside racing onto Ramires' through ball before they finally put together a sweeping passing move that ended with a tame Essien finish.
The pressure finally told in the 61st minute when Essien released Drogba and the striker squared for Malouda to tap home his first league goal since October. But Chelsea's confidence remained fragile and Sam Ricketts blazed over from 12 yards as Bolton hit back.
Sensing blood, visiting boss Owen Coyle withdrew Rodrigo Moreno — impressive on his full Premier League debut — for Ivan Klasnic after his side were awarded a free-kick.
Gary Cahill — a reported transfer target of Chelsea — immediately headed Taylor's centre wide.
Bolton went even closer when Elmander's cross was met by a bullet header from Holden, forcing a wonderful tip over from Petr Cech.
Malouda was denied twice by Jussi Jaaskelainen late on before Ancelotti ran down the clock by introducing Salomon Kalou and Paulo Ferreira in the closing seconds.