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25 Jan 2011

Fourth-place Chelsea boosted their title defence with an emphatic victory over Bolton at the Reebok Stadium.

Didier Drogba gave the visitors an early lead against the run of play with an audacious shot from 30 yards out.

Matt Taylor almost levelled with a bullet header but Petr Cech saved well before Florent Malouda scored at the other end from a tight angle.

Nicolas Anelka hit a third with a left-foot shot in the corner and Ramires finished it with a side-foot volley.

It was a night to forget for Bolton, who failed to draw inspiration from the tributes paid before the match to club legend Nat Lofthouse, who died aged 85 on 16 January.

The west Londoners arrived at the Reebok looking to continue an unbeaten away run against Bolton that stretched back 13 years.

Perhaps more importantly, the reigning champions were seeking to reverse a loss of form that has seen them fall behind in the Premier League title race.

With not only leaders Manchester United, but second-place Arsenal and Manchester City sitting above them in the table, and with the advantage over fifth-placed Tottenham based on goal difference only, Chelsea needed all three points to stay in touch.

Bolton boss Owen Coyle's side are without a win in 2011, but the Trotters dominated the opening exchanges.

Bulgarian midfielder Martin Petrov found Johan Elmander with a high cross in the box for the hosts' best early chance but as the Swede flicked on to Kevin Davies, the captain failed to test Blues goalkeper Cech.

Central defensive duo Branislav Ivanovic and John Terry, who was playing after suffering a rib injury, looked jittery as Coyle's men continued to threaten.

Until this match, Bolton had suffered only one home defeat all season, while Chelsea had lost five league games away this term, but the form book was torn up by Drogba.

Having nicked the ball off defender Gretar Steinsson, Malouda found the Ivorian striker whose blistering shot dipped into the top of keeper Jussi Jaaskelainen's net from around 30 yards out.

Trotters old boy Anelka then had a chance to extend the visitors' lead, but defender Zat Knight made a fine saving tackle to thwart the France international.

The home side were denied moments later when Petrov provided a teasing cross from the left which Matt Taylor met with a bullet header, but Cech acrobatically pushed his effort around the post.

But it was Chelsea who found the back of the net next, this time after Malouda, who was standing almost on the byeline, slammed the ball against the legs of Gary Cahill before slotting the rebound in from a tight angle.

It was 3-0 to the Blues just after the break, Michael Essien pulling the ball back into the area from the line and though Knight was able to prevent Drogba from getting a shot off, the ball fell to Anelka who made no mistake.

Bolton's Mark Davies entered the fray just after the hour, and the midfielder almost netted after a smart one-two with Elmander, but the advancing Cech bravely grabbed the ball off his toe.

Any hopes of a Trotters revival were ended, though, when Essien turned another decent ball into the penalty area and Brazilian midfielder Ramires hit a side-footed shot beyond Jaaskelainen to make it 4-0 - mirroring the scoreline in this fixture last season.

Mark Davies continued to probe the visitors' goal but Cech was quick to extinguish the 22-year-old's efforts and Bolton survived a late penalty appeal as Paul Robinson looked to have caught Anelka in the area, but referee Chris Foy waved play on.

Chelsea now sit seven points behind leaders Manchester United, who have a game in hand but travel to Blackpool on Tuesday, while Bolton drop to tenth below Stoke on goal difference.

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