Classic Encounter: Wolves 1 - 0 Chelsea
WOLVERHAMPTON, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 05: Wolverhampton Wanderer players rush to congratulate team mate Stephen Hunt (R) as his corner is deflected by Jose Bosingwa of Chelsea into his own net during the Barclays Premier League match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Chelsea at Molineux on January 5, 2011 in Wolverhampton, England. (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)

Prior to the game on Wednesday 5th January 2011, Wolverhampton Wanderers found themselves bottom of the Premier League.

At the top of the table, defending champions Chelsea were a little off the pace, but three points would move them into the top four. VAVEL looks back at that pivotal game at the Molineux.

  • Desperate times, for different reasons

Currently, Wolves are finding life in the Premier League under Nuno Espirito Santo completely different to how Mick McCarthy found it nearly a decade ago. McCarthy's side had only managed three wins so far in the campaign, finding themselves in a no-holds-barred relegation dogfight.

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It was their second season in the league and they found themselves battling the drop-zone, along with three other teams from the West Midlands in Aston VillaBirmingham City and their Black Country rivals West Bromwich Albion.

The club needed points desperately and would have to find a way to do so against the current champions. Chelsea had found themselves in a sticky patch and were currently in their second season under the stewardship of Carlo Ancelotti.

The Blues had won both the League and the FA Cup last season, so the expectation for them was to regain their crown. 

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Unfortunately, they found themselves sitting in fifth, nine points adrift of Manchester United in first place. The journey up the M1 to Molineux for Chelsea was for nothing less than three points, to bridge the gap between the teams above them.

  • A vast gulf in quality

Wolves were by far an inferior side in comparison to that Chelsea side at the time. Wolves were operating with a classic 4-4-2 formation, with Kevin Doyle and Steven Fletcher leading the way upfront. Both strikers were instrumental to the team for different reasons.

Doyle was a hard-working forward, often chasing down lost causes and bringing others into the game. Fletcher on the other hand was the one who bagged the goals. He did not need many chances to find the net, but the problem was that the team did not normally create that many opportunities.

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On the wing was Matt Jarvis, who was arguably playing some of the best football in his career, which would eventually lead to an England international cap a few months later. A familiar name was also on the bench in Matt Doherty.

Chelsea lined up with a 4-3-3 formation, which was full of world-class talent. Explosive striker Didier Drogba would spearhead the side and would be looking to grab a few goals whilst terrorizing the Wolves defence in the process. 

Also looking to be getting on the score sheet for the Blues was prolific midfielder, Frank Lampard. He was instrumental in how the team performed, with their flow of play often coming through him, whilst he also provided many key goals for the club.

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Though it was their captain John Terry in the centre of defence who orchestrated the side, with the help of one of the world's best full-backs in Ashley Cole. They both were incredible defenders, forcing sides to have to do something special to beat them.

Wolves lineup: Hennessey, Elokobi, Stearman, Berra, Zubar, Foley, Edwards, Hunt, Jarvis, Fletcher, Doyle

Chelsea lineup: Cech, Ivanovic, Cole, Bosingwa, Terry, Essien, Ramires, Lampard, Malouda, Drogba, Kalou

  • First half with an own goal to put the underdogs ahead

It was Wolves though that started the game on the front foot, with Ronald Zubar testing Petr Cech early on with a long-range effort that could only be palmed out for a corner.

Stephen Hunt took the corner for Wolves, which was then sent hurtling into the sea of old gold and blue. George Elokobi managed to lose his man and attacked the ball, but somehow managed completely miss it.

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The ball then sailed into the six-yard-box and bounced awkwardly in front of Cech. Before he could do anything though, Jose Bosingwa had swung a leg out, which knocked the unchallenged ball into the back of the Chelsea net.

Wolves were ahead early on and now they could sit back and shut up shop. The wanderers were well drilled and were able to press Chelsea very effectively, not allowing them to get into the game.

Zubar marched forward again towards Chelsea's box, in which the ball then fell to Doyle who could only strike it straight at Cech. Thirty minutes in and the Blues were beginning to get a foothold in the game on the slippery Molineux surface.

Chelsea's Ramires was beginning to display some Brazilian swagger, pulling the strings for his side in midfield. He found Florent Malouda who crossed into Soloman Kalou, whose shot was denied by the leg of Wayne Hennessey in goal for Wolves. A first half of delight for Wolves, but a half of annoyance for Chelsea. 

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  • Second half of stalwart defending with the Blues hitting the woodwork

Ancelotti's half-time team talk spurred Chelsea into action in the second half, with Malouda testing out Hennessey once again with a shot. The Blues were now on the front foot, with Wolves sitting deep and hoping to hold on.

A big chance though came from a bit of brilliance from Lampard, as he back heeled a pass to put Kalou through on goal. The Ivorian placed his shot poorly wide, allowing Wolves to escape again. A big chance missed.

Drogba had been having a very quiet evening so far, but his chance came after a defensive mishap from Wolves. He pounced on the mistake and came very close to the equaliser after his shot struck the post. 

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McCarthy was a very agitated man on the sidelines, continually shouting instructions and pacing back and forth. Ancelotti by contrast was very calm, but called in reinforcements in the form of Daniel Sturridge and Nicolas Anelka, as the Blues pushed on to try and draw level.

The last 20 minutes of the game was very much back-to-the-wall defending for Wolves, led gallantly by Richard Stearman. The constant Chelsea pressure kept tensions on a knife-edge for both sets of supporters. 

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Another chance fell to Malouda, but he not make the most of his opportunity. Substitute Sturridge also had a great opportunity, but could not execute his volley into the Wolves' goal, instead finding fans sitting high up in the turnstiles. 

The game was near the end and Wolves were close to a major upset. In the dying minutes of the game, Chelsea won a free-kick in a dangerous position. Drogba was the man who stepped up to take the responsibility.

Much to the relief of the Wolves supporters, he could not convert the free-kick and the whistle went to the joyous adulation and celebration of the fans echoing around Molineux. A big win for Wolves who would go on to stay up that season by one point, which goes to show how crucial these three points were.

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Chelsea on the other hand did turn things around and went on a fantastic run which saw them finish second, but still nine points behind the eventual winners Manchester United. This was not enough for the Chelsea board, who then sacked Ancelotti, with Andre Villas-Boas put in as his replacement.