Lampard seizes his chance to make point

Wolverhampton Wanderers 1 Chelsea 2

Molineux

Frank Lampard spent so long celebrating with the Chelsea fans in the Steve Bull stand at the end of the match yesterday that Andre Villas-Boas gave up waiting for him on the pitch and walked down the tunnel with the rest of his victorious team, leaving his match-winner to come back in his own time.

The pair of them shaking hands or embracing, as Villas-Boas had done moments earlier with a bare-chested John Terry, would have been the picture to soothe the bubbling stories of discontent at the club but it never happened. Lampard wanted his moment with the Chelsea fans and he was not for rushing back. Chances to score the kind of crucial goal he did have been fewer than ever under this new young manager.

It was a day that began with another story about the rift between Villas-Boas and senior players at Chelsea, one which prompted an indignant denial from the manager. It ended with the pressure being lifted from Villas-Boas by Lampard's goal. And along the way there were a few subplots that made this another fascinating day in the development of Chelsea under Villas-Boas.

It was not just Lampard's lingering celebrations with the Chelsea fans that meant he avoided encountering Villas-Boas in the centre of the pitch. There was also a strangely contrived goal celebration following Ramires' first for Chelsea on 50 minutes when a group of players – mainly the Lusophone contingent, it should be said – headed over to the touchline for a man-hug session with Villas-Boas and his assistants.

On that occasion, John Terry arrived at the party too late and Lampard did not even make it over at all. In his post-match press conference, Villas-Boas avoided giving Lampard any personal credit – although, it should be said, that is common with this Chelsea manager. Nevertheless it provoked an outraged response from Phil Thompson on Sky Sports. This is not an issue that is likely to just go away.

That was the politics of the Chelsea camp; the game was another story altogether. Having lost so disastrously at home to Aston Villa, with Lampard gifting the opposition the third goal on that occasion, this game looked like it could be yet another cock-up from Villas-Boas's players when Stephen Ward scored an equaliser on 72 minutes.

Before then, Chelsea had much the better of the second half. They worked hard to push Wolves back and played like a team that knows it is in urgent need of a win. Fernando Torres had one of his better days, accelerating past defenders from a standing start and attacking without the moping that has become commonplace for him.

The Chelsea goal had come from a corner that was poorly defended by Wolves. Terry jumped to challenge for the ball, did not reach it and it came through to Ramires. The Brazilian midfielder, who had been impressive all afternoon, held off Ward and blasted the ball into the roof of the Wolves goal.

Chelsea had spent the first half making little progress until the later stages when Jose Bosingwa and Terry had both come close. Before then the referee Peter Walton had struggled to keep a lid on the game during a flurry of bookings for five players across both teams, the most controversial of which was for Lampard for a tackle on Adam Hammill.

Given how fervently the Wolves manager, Mick McCarthy, had argued against Stuart Attwell's decision to dismiss Nenad Milijas at the Emirates last month, you had to wonder whether that would play on Walton's mind in Lampard's case. The studs of one boot were raised, they connected with Hammill and it was a decision that could go either way – even Lampard said later "my heart was in my mouth".

That it should be Lampard who came back to score the winner would, you suspected, only further stoke McCarthy's indignation. However, by the time of his post-match press conference he had made a decision not to go down that route. "It [the Lampard decision] is irrelevant," he said. "Defend the bleeding cross. They shouldn't have scored and I should have been sat here talking about a 1-1 draw."

It provoked a bout of bad feeling between the players during which five in all were booked in the space of eight minutes. Ashley Cole landed a high kick on Kevin Doyle and then lashed out when he was on the ground. He should have been booked but only Doyle was shown a card for throwing the ball at Cole. Karl Henry and Oriol Romeu also followed into the referee's book.

The game was low on quality with Didier Drogba and Daniel Sturridge, both injured, notable absentees. That is the last Chelsea will see of Drogba for some time as he meets up with the Ivory Coast squad on Saturday for the Cup of African Nations. Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou were also unavailable.

As for Wolves, McCarthy gave Emmanuel Frimpong his debut and rested Matt Jarvis, Steven Fletcher and Stephen Hunt. He said he could simply not afford to push them too hard. But with his team a goal down he brought on Jarvis and Fletcher and the two combined well to create Ward's goal. Jarvis played the ball into the area for Fletcher to knock down and the defender finished confidently from close range.

It looked grim for Chelsea. On form it was hard to see them scoring a winner but when it came it was expertly made. Lampard played the ball in to Torres, who spread it out left to Cole. When he crossed, it was Lampard who arrived on time to force it into the goal.

Even Villas-Boas would struggle to argue that the transition under his stewardship is developing painlessly. It feels like there will be many more awkward afternoons like this one until he finally has the team working the way he wants, with the individuals in whom he believes. In an ideal world he would also wean them of their reliance on Lampard's goals but this was not an afternoon to be picky.

It turned out to be Lampard's day, no doubt about that, and if it was the case that he was reluctant to celebrate with his manager at the end then so be it. Villas-Boas is trying to shake it up at Chelsea and even after that goal, Lampard knows there is no guarantee he will be in the team to play Portsmouth in the FA Cup on Sunday.

Match facts

Substitutes: Wolverhampton Wanderers Jarvis 7 (Forde, h-t), Fletcher 6 (Frimpong, 61), Foley (Edwards, 76). Chelsea McEachran (Mata, 87).

Booked: Wolves Hammill, Henry, Doyle. Chelsea Lampard, Romeu.

Man of the match Ramires.

Match rating 6/10.

Possession: Wolves 39% Chelsea 61%.

Attempts on target: Wolves 5 Chelsea 10.

Referee P Walton (Northamptonshire). Att 27,289.

Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Voices
Vivienne Westwood and her son Joe Corré deliver an anti-fracking letter to No 10 last week
voicesThe great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick