The old reliables stood up and were counted for Chelsea today as the Blues secured a confidence boosting win against relegation threatened Bolton. Frank Lampard, restored to the starting line up and handed the captain's armband, scored one goal and made another for Didier Drogba, in the 3-0 victory. The crisis engulfing the club won't be solved by this win but it will at least steady some nerves for the bigger tests which lie in wait and it sends Chelsea back into the top four.
However the match demonstrated why Chelsea find themselves in the position they are in, especially in the first half. Chances were at a premium although the home side started brightly. Lampard set Sturridge up for an early chance and the striker returned the compliment for his captain but neither England star managed to score. There were few more opportunities to break the deadlock. Bolton keeper Bogdan had to dive smartly to prevent a Sturridge shot from nestling in the far corner on thrity minutes but that was the closest the Bolton goal came to being breeched.
Bolton are struggling at the foot of the table and had little to offer in attack, with Petr Cech untroubled until just before the break.A neat exchange of passes between Tuncay and Rio Myiachi ended with the Japanese winger firing over the bar from an acute angle.
What ever Villas Boas said in hi half tim team talk, it had the desired effect. Chelsea looked like a side transformed in the second half and this reinvigorated and renewed approach had an immediate impact. David Luiz, who has been criticised for his defensive displays recently, proved rather more adept at the other end of the pitch. He was far upfield, breaking play up, in a high defensive line. A weak attempted clearance by David Wheater landed right at Luiz's feet. The erstwhile defender neatly sidestepped Wheater and curled a firmly hit shot into the far corner.
The goal was just what Chelsea, and the game, needed. The Blues drew inspiration and a little confidence from it and the Bolton goal came under sustained pressure from the home team. Lampard set up Drogba, whose curling shot was inches from making it 2-0. It hit the cross bar and bounced harmlessly away. Luiz was making a case for a place up front and he almost added a second on the hour. His header was cleared off the line by Miyaichi.
Chelsea didn't have long to wait for the second and when it came it had a very familiar feel. Lampard's cormer was met by Drogba and this time there was no problem with precision. He rose highest of all and powered a header past the helpless Bogdan. It was starting to feel like old times at the Bridge.
The trip down memory lane wasn't finished. Lampard had played all afternoon like a man on a mission, desperate to prove that he still has a significant part to play in the new Chelsea. It was through Mata, a symbol of Chelsea's future, that he got his chance to leave an impression on the game and his manager. Mata whipped in a deep cross and Lampard, like he has on countless occasions in the past, was in the right place. He stole in, unmarked to the far post and sidefooted the ball inot the net. His goal was celebrated wildly by the midfielder and the Chelsea faithful. It was a reminder of what he can still do when he is called upon and a statement of intent.
The win was a welcome boost to Chelsea's fourth place aspirations but it really only papers over the cracks. Chelsea face much sterner tests of their resolve and credentials over the next three weeks and Villas Boas will be under pressure to deliver results. For now at least the rot has been stoppe