Bolton Wanderers 0 Chelsea 2: Chelsea end title 'race' with a cruise to the line

Championship could be formally retained tomorrow
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The Independent Football

A more satisfactory outcome would be for the coup de grâce to be administered when the top two meet at Stamford Bridge on Saturday week.

The Lancashire afternoon was mild enough for Jose Mourinho to forsake his lucky overcoat, but good fortune had no part in a comfortable victory, any more than has been the case throughout the campaign. Bolton, subsiding to a fifth successive defeat, were close to a goal only once, when Ricardo Vaz Te hit a post midway through the first half. Mourinho's mood, a little darker than the weather at that point, became an understandable rage just before the interval when Ivan Campo somehow escaped a yellow card for blatantly tripping Frank Lampard from behind, leading the Chelsea manager to a less forgivable push on the fourth official, Alan Wiley.

His explanation was: "I was annoyed because rules are rules and it was a yellow card. Steve Clarke was telling me to be cool and I pushed him away, but it was the fourth official. But he understood." Other Chelsea officials joined Mourinho in the technical area to make their displeasure known, but within seconds all were celebrating as Lampard's free-kick was headed in by a combination of John Terry and Didier Drogba. It may become one for the dubious goals committee to consider, but there was nothing dubious about Lampard's effort early in the second half, putting the result beyond doubt and beyond a normally resilient Bolton, who have lost their way recently.

Sam Allardyce tried without success to shake them up by making three changes, dropping Henrik Pedersen and Stelios, but he was forced to turn to both of them at half-time, so uncharacteristically feeble had his team been. Kevin Davies, marginalised down the right-hand side throughout the first half, reverted to his proper position in the centre but had no support, and Allardyce will have to think again before tomorrow's visit to West Bromwich. After clinging on to seventh place during their poor run and failing to score for three games, a second successive qualification for the Uefa Cup is slipping away.

Chelsea were not at their best either, which was just as well or the home side might have suffered a repeat of their 5-1 beating at the Bridge last October. "It was always difficult," Mourinho said. "To beat Bolton in Bolton is a big victory. We scored the second goal at the right moment and closed the door."

He had chosen to go with both Hernan Crespo and Drogba again, using Joe Cole to the left of them but inevitably sacrificing the width normally offered by Arjen Robben and/or Damien Duff. That contributed to a dull start in which Chelsea's only half-chance was created by the right-back Gérémi, who crossed just too high for Crespo. There was more incident at the other end, initially from free-kicks that Mourinho had warned about, and the inevitable long throws.

Then, in the 23rd minute, Vaz Te played a one-two with Jared Borgetti, striking a post after failing to get hold of the shot. Phil Dowd, a fussy referee, had already booked two players before his failure to note Campo's name so enraged the Chelsea entourage. Poetic justice was done as Lampard flighted the free-kick, the admirable Terry claiming that he had notched the more decisive touch. It was one of those "that's why we're the champions" moments.

The Chelsea captain's one false move came 10 minutes into the second half, Pedersen turning him before shooting too high. But, on the hour, Lampard led a break by sending Crespo away and kept running to meet the return and hook it high past Jussi Jaaskelainen. His 15 Premiership goals this season set a record.

Bolton failed to mount anything like the sort of late rally with which they once undermined Arsenal's championship challenge here, and all that happened in the last half an hour was a succession of yellow cards. Tal Ben Haim, collecting two of them, failed to finish the match.

"Tal only committed three fouls today, [Claude] Makelele committed six," Allardyce complained. Of Bolton's fall from grace he said: "We've failed to get clean sheets and now the goals have dried up as well. But it's nothing to do with England, like everyone else is asking me. Steve McClaren's not moaning and nor am I."