CHELSEA 4-3 BOLTON
Well, what is there to say about this one then? I mean, the scoreline suggests it was a pretty close fought game but the reality is it really shouldn’t have ended up anywhere near as nail-biting as it did.
It’s funny really, I was only having the conversation on Thursday about how teams don’t just bang in 3 against us week in week out and Bolton end up doing exactly that a couple of days later – although to be fair we’d already put four past them at that point so Liverpool shouldn’t take too much inspiration from yesterday’s final score.
Michael Essien’s absence was glaringly obvious I thought and although we seemed comfortable enough, my impatience and Bolton’s defending made for a frustrating first half. But just before the break Michael Ballack, who’d already threatened the crossbar with a shot, fed Kalou’s run before receiving an unusually accurate return and slotted it home. 1-0 at the break.
Right at the start of the second half, Didier Drogba scored from a Lampard free-kick and suddenly it looked a whole lot easier against the earlier resolute Bolton defence. Penalty for Lampard next – and whilst I’d be the first to admit it was a little harsh on them, I have no doubt at all that the ref had had time to take a second look at the Ashley Cole penalty shout – 3-0. And then Didier Drogba grabbed a second and his seventh in ten games under Hiddink before both him and Lampard were replaced by Anelka and Deco – and that was Hiddink’s biggest mistake.
Ok, we were 4-0 up so you can’t blame Hiddink for thinking the game was won – and it maybe should’ve been – but Bolton have a way of making life difficult and were certainly never going to lay down and die for us. So, taking off a player like Lampard, who has such an influential role and replacing him with a lightweight like Deco alongside the less pacy Ballack, is always going to destabilise the midfield. Add to that withdrawing Didier Drogba’s defensive qualities and replacing them with the less defensive-minded Anelka and it’s little wonder we lost our composure.
Suddenly Bolton grabbed what, at the time looked like a consolation goal, and whilst I might have been undecided whether to be pissed off at us for letting one in or laugh at the thought of Bolton staging a come-back, it didn’t take me too long to start taking it seriously when they put in a second and then a third. Anelka almost added a fifth for us before it was cleared off the line and as Bolton earned themselves a couple of late corners, I introduced myself to the wonders of self-help CPR as a coronary appeared imminent.
Fortunately our latest hero, Branislav Ivanovic, saved our arse – and a goal off the line, just seconds before the ref blew to signal the end of the game and we could all uncover our eyes, safe in the knowledge an equaliser wasn’t going to come.
Like I said though, there’s no point Liverpool wetting themselves about this result, because Hiddink isn’t likely to rest Essien or take players like Lampard and Drogba off, so they need to ‘calm down’.