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50-50: Liverpool vs. Real Madrid

Champions League 10 hours ago
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Oct 2, 2011

Lampard adds right blend to Chelsea

If Andre Villas-Boas' task is to forge past and future together in a potent blend for the present, a difficult balancing act has rarely seemed simpler. With two goals from Daniel Sturridge, the next-generation striker, and three from that most reliable of relics, Frank Lampard, Chelsea used Greater Manchester to provide a reminder that the county's two dominant forces are in a three-way battle for the title.

Chelsea are unaccustomed to being outsiders, preferring the swagger that a sense of entitlement offers, but it is harder to pass under the radar now. Their last two wins have yielded nine goals. The first four at the Reebok came in a mere 27 minutes. If football is supposedly a 90-minute game, then this was an exception, a half-hour steamrollering prefacing an extended postscript. If Chelsea reside at Stamford Bridge, however, Bolton supplies a home from home. This was an eighth successive triumph on the turf where they won their first title for half a century.

Indeed, it hosted the high watermark of Lampard's Chelsea career. In April 2005, his brace ensured Jose Mourinho's side were crowned champions. Six-and-a-half years later, a second Portuguese manager is more reluctant to build a team around him, but the midfielder's eye for goal remains as acute as ever.

It is a compliment to say that, rather than playing 500 games for Chelsea, Lampard has played the same game 500 times, making the same runs, often with the same result. His first and third goals were distinctly similar, taken from near-identical positions after the sort of breaks forward the veteran has made thousands of times.

"He arrived in the box with perfect timing," Villas-Boas said. A thrashing, he felt, had been coming. "Everything paid off for us," he added. "In Valencia we couldn't manage to be that prolific in front of goal. Today we found that efficiency."

The man who personified the age of efficiency at Stamford Bridge located it. Lampard may seem a symbol of a bygone era and is unlikely to evolve into a Luka Modric-style playmaker, but reminders of his productiveness have an eloquence of their own. Goals are Lampard's universal language, and he has 175 of them in Chelsea colours. A fourth Premier League hat-trick is unrivalled among midfielders.

With three goals for a 33-year-old and two for a 22-year-old, there was a numerical symmetry to Bolton's sixth successive defeat. There was also a cruelty. Owen Coyle has a sideline in polishing young gems that the game's multi-millionaires own. Bolton's short-term gain offers a lasting benefit to others. Having scored eight times for Wanderers, Sturridge struck twice against them. That's ingratitude for you, even if the forward attempted to keep his emotions in check whenever Chelsea scored.

In a startling start, they did four times in swift succession. Cliché has it that the hardest thing in the game is to get a goal. It has been all too easy at times this season, not least for Bolton's opponents.

Set-piece frailties, an inability to track midfield runners and the open invitation to exploit left-back Paul Robinson's lack of pace were a crushing combination, even before the enforced introduction of a goalkeeping rookie. Adam Bogdan was culpable for the third and fourth goals, but he was blameless when the initial damage was done.

After 92 seconds, Sturridge headed in Juan Mata's corner. Both were involved again when the lead was doubled, the Spaniard advancing from the centre circle and the forward picking out Lampard for a calm finish. Two minutes of trauma for Bogdan followed as a weak attempt at a parry resulted in Sturridge's shot squeezing in while the roving David Luiz's long-range effort was parried into the path of Lampard. "Young Adam Bogdan's going to have a terrific career, but the third and fourth goals should have been basic saves," said Coyle, who felt each was avoidable.

The fifth was a footnote. After trading passes with Didier Drogba, Lampard completed his treble. "I am happy for him," added Villas-Boas, who spends much of his life fielding questions about the midfielder and Fernando Torres; at least the latter's suspension spared him a Spanish inquisition. But while scorers, even malfunctioning ones, have an inevitable tendency to monopolise the spotlight, Chelsea have an alternative attraction now. Mata scarcely needs lurid, lime-green boots to illuminate a game; indeed they were an incongruous sight on him. But the Stamford Bridge David Silva, another from the seemingly endless supply of subtle Spanish prompters, can elude opponents no matter how visible his footwear is.

His creativity is a constant. "If you look at other games, we were creating the same volume of opportunities," Villas-Boas said. Bolton allow similar amounts of attempts every game, too. They did improve in the second half, although they could have been little worse. Dedryck Boyata headed in Martin Petrov's free kick and Kevin Davies, with a shot Branislav Ivanovic cleared off the line, and Chris Eagles, who struck the post, were close to further goals.

However, they would have served as smokescreen. With 11 defeats in 12 games, after making their worst start to the season in 109 years and with a defence that resembles a sieve, their plight is evident. Their concern is not past or future as much as an unpleasant present.

MAN OF THE MATCH: Daniel Sturridge - He relishes the right-wing role that allows him to drift into the penalty area and open up space for the overlapping Jose Bosingwa, but he is also adept at creating from a wider position. His form means the outlook for Nicolas Anelka and Salomon Kalou may be bleak.

BOLTON VERDICT: Coyle deemed the first goal the most important and so it was instructive he substituted Gretar Steinsson, who lost Sturridge. Unusually, Zat Knight was demoted to the bench, a sign the manager may have drawn the same conclusion about the towering defender that the majority of fans did long ago. But, while David Wheater will be eligible again after suspension, Bolton's problems are of both personnel and organisation. That Luiz was allowed to run 40 yards unchecked to set up the fourth goal was particularly damning.

CHELSEA VERDICT: With Bosingwa picked at right-back and Raul Meireles anchoring the midfield, this was as an attacking a side as Villas-Boas could have selected away from home. Boldness paid off, too, unlike at Old Trafford, but the manager was also quick to shore his side up with Ivanovic and John Obi Mikel after Wanderers scored. Collectively, it amounted to a hugely impressive display, with the only caveat being that Bolton made it far too easy for them.

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