Drogba and Anelka combine to leave Bolton's defence in complete disarray


REPUTATIONS MUST be reassessed sometimes. At the Reebok Stadium Carlo Ancelotti’s team were ruthless only in their commitment to fast, flowing, attacking football on Saturday, with Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka the principal architects who made a mockery of their supposed incompatibility.

It was Bolton’s misfortune to be in the path of a force determined to show their last visit to the north-west, a 3-1 defeat at Wigan in September, was simply an aberration.

With Manchester United due at Stamford Bridge on Sunday, the league leaders have an imperious look and 17 goals for and none against in four games since defeat at Aston Villa tell of a team listening to instruction.

“We have the perfect balance at the moment,” said Ancelotti; “But the most difficult thing is to maintain it.”

Drogba being Drogba he was barracked mercilessly by the Bolton faithful following his part in the contest’s decisive moment, the 45th-minute penalty which Frank Lampard converted to open the scoring and resulted in Jlloyd Samuel’s dismissal. That the referee had no alternative hardly seemed to matter.

It was the Ivorian’s continual torment of Gary Cahill and the Bolton defence that inflicted the greater harm, and only Jussi Jaaskelainen’s brilliance prevented the scoreline from doubling.

“Didier and [Liverpool’s] Fernando Torres are both top strikers,” said Lampard, invited to join the debate over the Premier League’s finest forward, “but for me Didier is the best in the world because of his all-round game. Everyone talks about his power, but maybe they don’t give him the credit he deserves for his finishing. At times it is different class, with his head and with his feet. Didier is the best striker in the world and the best I have ever played with.

“The thing about Didier is he’s a very unselfish player. A lot of things get said about him, but one thing we know in the camp is that he gives everything for the team.

“He’s had a lot of assists this year, which shows he’s not just interested in scoring goals, he’s interested in working hard for the team, heading balls out of his own box. That’s the beauty of him.”

Jaaskelainen denied Drogba five times before the Chelsea striker rounded off an exquisite one-touch move in the 90th minute with his 10th goal of the season, while Deco curled a nonchalant finish over the Finn to deflate Bolton’s impressive resistance and Branislav Ivanovic, with some assistance from Zat Knight, also scored after an earlier volley had been disallowed.

Gary Megson, while rightly encouraged despite a second 4-0 loss to Chelsea inside four days, dubiously blamed the official for Bolton’s demise.

“I didn’t think it was a massive coming together of two people,” said the Bolton manager. “I thought it was very clever in terms of football clever, not cheating or trying to con people, the way that Didier took the ball from his right foot on to his left and Jlloyd had nowhere to go. They have come together and he’s gone over.

“From our point of view, we felt the ball was running through to Jussi anyway. Some of them are given and some not but with penalties and Philip Walton and Bolton, there’s only one outcome.”

Though Drogba dominated the controversy and took Lampard’s award for the best striker, Anelka’s contribution to a masterful triumph cannot be overlooked. The former Bolton forward was sublime and was even serenaded by the home supporters at one point in the second half.

He took time out from ripping apart his old side’s right flank to stop and applaud.

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