EPL: Chelsea maintain winning momentum

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Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou secured a routine 2-0 victory for Chelsea over struggling Wolves to move Carlo Ancelotti’s side five points clear at the top of the Premier League table.

With Arsenal travelling to face Manchester City and Manchester United due to face Stoke 24 hours after this game, this was a great opportunity for Chelsea to extend their lead at the head of the table.

They took full advantage with Malouda firing the home side ahead in the 24th minute before Kalou wrapped things up nine minutes from time to send the Stamford Bridge faithful home smiling.

This wasn’t the one-sided game many had predicted and Wolves had chances to claw their way back into the game.

But ultimately Chelsea’s greater finishing power told and the pressure is now on the chasing pack to recover ground on Ancelotti’s league leaders.

With Didier Drogba back in the starting line-up after recovering from illness, Ancelotti’s side had every reason to feel confident about claiming three points against a struggling Wolves side.

With Drogba leading the attack, Nicolas Anelka reverted to the right hand flank after occupying the central role in the midweek Champions League victory over Spartak Moscow when he scored his 50th goal for the club.

Mick McCarthy’s side have endured a painful run recently and came into this match without a win since the first day of the season while a return of just one point in the previous five games had seen them slip into the relegation zone.

By contrast, Chelsea’s home form has been formidable with Ancelotti’s side having failed to concede in their four league games at Stamford Bridge prior to this meeting.

It was to Wolves’ credit, though, that they refused to be intimidated by their opponents and started brightly, forcing two early corners.

Jose Bosingwa, making his first start for 13 months after a serious knee injury, forced Chelsea’s first chance with a powerful shot that Wolves keeper Marcus Hahnemann did well to tip wide.

Yet despite Chelsea appearing in control in the midfield areas, it was Wolves who continued to create the better chances.

Twice they worked an opening down the right hand flank and could have gone ahead if David Jones and Jelle Van Damme hadn’t miscued good headed opportunities.

But the second of those, Van Damme’s effort in the 23rd minute, proved to be the signal for the home side to finally wake up.

Seconds after Petr Cech had gathered up Van Damme’s header, Chelsea were on the attack with Anelka moving purposefully into the Wolves area before playing a neat reverse pass for Yury Zhirkov.

Zhirkov pulled the ball back first time and Florent Malouda was on hand ten yards out of goal to stroke the ball past Hahnemann.

McCarthy’s side weathered the rest of the first half and even had another chance to draw level, this time when Kevin Doyle fluffed a header four minutes before the interval.

Half time gave Wolves chance to regroup and the introduction of Stephen Hunt gave them more energy on the flanks.

Hunt was given a fierce reception by the home supporters who have not forgiven the former Reading winger for his role in the incident that led to Cech suffering a fractured skull four years ago.

But the Republic of Ireland international responded by almost heading an equaliser with one of his first touches at the start of the second period.

Doyle then forced Cech into another save as the visitors grew in confidence.

But Chelsea were controlling possession and the game would have been effectively over in the 64th minute if Drogba had made more of an opportunity after being sent clear on Hahnemann’s goal.

The decisive second strike came nine minutes from time after another neat exchange of one touch passes, this time between Kalou, Drogba and Essien which ended with Kalou placing the ball beyond Hahnemann from close range.

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