Before a week in which Chelsea could secure qualification to the next stage of the Champions' League and face a crucial encounter with Manchester United, it is fair to say Carlo Ancelotti would have preferred to avoid such a challenging fixture. The manner in which Chelsea handled one of the toughest Premier League trips on the calendar, however, should ensure more anxiety for their opponents than their coach in the coming days.
Following the 4-0 Carling Cup victory over the same opponents in midweek, Ancelotti's biggest problem was to prevent complacency against a committed Bolton side used to upsetting the big four on home territory. Then again, after offering his grandmother's remedy of red wine and hot milk as a cure for a potential swine flu outbreak at the club, he is unlikely to be unsettled by anything a football match presents.
Indeed, Chelsea mirrored the demeanour of their coach from the moment Jlloyd Samuel was sent off on the stroke of half-time for tripping Didier Drogba, allowing Frank Lampard to put Chelsea ahead from the penalty spot. Ancelotti was composed and relaxed in the technical area, and his team were similarly in control on the pitch despite Bolton's best efforts to break up their smooth rhythm.
They only failed to secure a more emphatic victory than they achieved in midweek because of the acrobatics of Bolton's goalkeeper, Jussi Jaaskelainen, who deserved better from his performance than to concede second-half goals from Deco, an own goal from Zat Knight, and Drogba.
"Bolton did their best to make things difficult for us, but at the moment we're playing very well," said Ance-lotti, who could afford to leave Joe Cole and Florent Malouda unused on the bench to preserve their energies for challenges ahead against Atletico Madrid and Manchester United. "This was a good win for us because it was a difficult and tough game."
Until Samuel's desperate challenge on Drogba as he ran through on to Nicolas Anelka's precise through-ball, Bolton had more than matched Chelsea's energy, and Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander had chances to continue the League leaders' disappointing form away from Stamford Bridge following defeats at Wigan and Aston Villa. But Chelsea's first-half uncertainty made way for a confident performance after the interval with Deco shifted out to the left, allowing Anelka to run as a free spirit and deliver the type of performance which, according to Bolton's manager, Gary Megson, made him look "cheap at £15 million," having sold him for that figure two seasons ago.
"I think they made nine changes and made the 11 even stronger," said Megson. "There needs to be a realisation that if you're going to spend £150m on your starting 11, never mind the squad, you're going to have a bit of an advantage. The squad is really strong and the team looks really motivated, with a determination to win everything in front of them."
Forced into damage-limitation mode after the interval, Bolton tried to restrict Chelsea's attacking diamond with 10 men but were ripe for counter-attacks, with Anelka feeding Deco on the left, who cut inside to add a second, while Knight scored an unfortunate own goal under pressure from Branislav Ivanovic. Drogba completed the rout after a one-touch move inside the box, which included an extravagant flick from Lampard.
"I know we've been beaten 4-0, but I thought we were terrific," said Megson. "The diamond that we struggled with on Wednesday, we didn't struggle with today. If we play like that against all the teams that haven't spent £200m then we'll get some decent results."
It is a theory which will be put to the test the next time Bolton play at the Reebok, against Blackburn in three weeks' time.
Referee: P Walton
Man of the match: Jaaskelainen
Match rating: 7/10