It is a curious truth about Avram Grant that he appears to rate Andrei Shevchenko even less than his predecessor Jose Mourinho did – if such a thing can be possible. Salomon Kalou's goal gave the new regime their first win of the Premier League season but it looks increasingly likely that there is no place for the fading Ukrainian in Chelsea's future.
Like a wilful teenager determined to establish his independence, Grant is bringing Shevchenko's career to an abrupt halt regardless of the feelings of Chelsea's sugar daddy, Roman Abramovich. Ushered into the inner circle at Chelsea on the basis that he believed he knew how to get the best out of the £31m man, Grant has no sooner been installed in power than he has curtly disregarded Shevchenko.
Dropped for Valencia last Wednesday, not only was Shevchenko left on the bench yesterday, he was also passed over in favour of Claudio Pizarro when Kalou came off with a hamstring injury at half-time. When the former European footballer of the year finally got a run-out it was on the left side of midfield. A job keeping tabs on Joey O'Brien was not what Shevchenko had in mind when he joined Chelsea.
Later Grant offered all the usual unconvincing arguments about Shevchenko having a role to play in the season that Mourinho used to make. Wasn't that a dangerous game to play with Abramovich? "When I got the job at Chelsea nobody said that friends of Peter Kenyon had to play," he joked. "I need to take decisions for the good of Chelsea. We have a big squad and all the players will get their chance."
Grant's first Premier League victory in three attempts – and his side's first League goal in 461 minutes of football – move them up to sixth place; for Bolton the mini-revival of five games in all competitions without defeat came to an end. Most tellingly, Sammy Lee did not name his captain, Kevin Nolan, and his player-coach, Gary Speed, in the squad – two senior players known to be critical of his regime.
Lee launched such an edgy, aggressive defence of his decision that it was obvious there must be private tensions with the pair. "There's no other reason [for leaving them out] than the fact that I pick the team – you don't ask me why I pick them when they are in the team," he grumbled. You were left thinking that the Bolton manager doth protest too much, and the futures of Speed and Nolan will clearly be a major issue as long as Lee is manager.
Bolton's next game, away at Arsenal on 20 October, could yet be Lee's farewell although his team were applauded off at the end by keeping the scoreline respectable. Not that there was much else to clap in a turgid 90 minutes. Grant justified it by saying that some games must be won at all costs but it was exactly that attitude that got his predecessor the sack.
Frank Lampard played 90 minutes in his first appearance since 25 August and he lacks a bit of sharpness, most notably conceding possession to Danny Guthrie who put in Nicolas Anelka for a good chance. Stelios Giannakopoulos headed against the bar from Anelka's cross in injury time after Paulo Ferreira had gifted the Frenchman possession. Grant said later that Shaun Wright-Phillips could still be fit to play for England on Saturday.
Ivan Campo could consider himself lucky to still be on the pitch by half-time, the Spaniard seemed slightly unhinged, scything away the legs of Joe Cole after 15 minutes. Moments before the end of the half, he arrived late on Lampard for no discernible reason. Steven Sidwell was lucky to escape when the ball hit his arm in the penalty area.
Chelsea's goal on 40 minutes will have sickened Lee. A punt from Petr Cech was knocked on by Florent Malouda into the path of Kalou. He slipped between Abdoulaye Meite and Jussi Jaaskelainen and lifted the ball over the Bolton goalkeeper. Even then Meite had the chance to redeem himself, instead he allowed himself to be held off by the striker who drilled the ball home.
It will be interesting to see how Joe Cole develops away from Mourinho's occasionally restrictive influence. In the first half, he performed like an eager triallist, desperate to impress. He turned Ricardo Gardner inside out, was cut in half by Campo and clothes-lined midway through a Cruyff-turn by El Hadji Diouf. Maybe this is what Grant means when he talks about the "new Chelsea style" although there was nothing like Cole's through ball to Didier Drogba on Wednesday night.
Afternoons like these will bring home the reality of Premier League football for Grant: a sparse attendance and a desperate opposition. The Chelsea fans are still singing Mourinho's name and at the Reebok Stadium that is no surprise. It was here in April 2005 that Mourinho clinched the club's first title in 50 years and the players celebrated on the roof of the team bus. In that context, Grant's first League win is only the start of a long journey.
Goal: Kalou (40) 0-1.
Bolton Wanderers (4-1-2-2-1): Jaaskelainen; J O'Brien (Giannakopoulos, 87), Meite, A O'Brien, Gardner; Campo; McCann, Guthrie; Davies, Diouf (Wilhelmsson, 64); Anelka. Substitutes not used: Al Habsi (gk), Cid, Braaten.
Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cech; Belletti, Terry, Carvalho, A Cole; Makelele; J Cole (Ferreira, 85), Sidwell, Lampard, Malouda (Shevchenko, 74); Kalou (Pizarro, h-t). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Ben Haim.
Referee: A Wiley (Staffordshire)
Booked: Bolton Campo, Diouf, Davies, McCann, Jaaskelainen; Chelsea Carvalho.
Man of the match: Carvalho.
Attendance: 19,995.Reuse content