Malouda strike just enough for Chelsea

Chelsea 1 Bolton Wanderers 0

It ugly, scrappy and lucky, but Chelsea will not care one jot as they ended their worst Barclays Premier League run for more than a decade by beating Bolton tonight.

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 tonight's 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 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.

The striker played on as Chelsea began to wrest a semblance of control and Taylor was booked after clattering into Ramires.

But the home side were not even close to a goal before being booed off by some of their fans at half-time.

They 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.

Chelsea suddenly looked a different side and 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 down the right and the striker squared for Malouda to tap home his first league goal since October.

The jubilant celebrations from both fans and players told their own story but Chelsea's confidence remained fragile and Sam Ricketts blazed over from 12 yards as Bolton hit back.

Stuart Holden then had a handball appeal turned down after smashing a shot at Terry inside the box.

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 January target for 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.

The goalkeeper made a hash of the resulting corner and was grateful to Drogba on the line for clearing the danger.

At the other end, Essien thought he had bundled the ball over the line in between Bolton's final two substitutions but the flag had already gone up.

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.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
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 Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'