In great Nic: Anelka lifts Chelsea four points clear... but Owen Coyle fumes at penalty snubs

Chelsea moved four points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League last night with a hard-fought victory over Bolton.

But it was not without controversy as visiting manager Owen Coyle claimed his side should have had two penalties after Didier Drogba and John Terry both seemed to handle during the clash at Stamford Bridge.

Coyle labelled Drogba a ‘world-class volleyball player’ after Nicolas Anelka’s 43rd-minute header from a pinpoint Drogba cross was enough to put Chelsea within striking distance of claiming back the title from Manchester United.

Nicolas Anelka

Nod it: Nicolas Anelka (left) fires Chelsea four points clear

It was the France striker’s first league goal since the end of January and denied Bolton an equaliser they arguably would have deserved after they had battled gamely for long periods.

But that was scant consolation for Coyle, who was left stunned by referee Lee Probert’s failure to award penalties either side of the break.

Coyle said: ‘We didn’t need any luck tonight. We only needed the officials to give the big decisions right. There were two stonewall penalties out there for handballs. The first one, after 27 minutes when Drogba handballs in the area.

Owen Coyle

Hopping mad: Coyle

‘I know Drogba is a world-class player, but Drogba could play world-class volleyball for anybody on that evidence.

‘Then there’s the second one when John Terry handles it. The assistant referee says it hit his shoulder, but it’s a clear penalty. He must have a shoulder that stretches down to his ankles in that case.

‘It’s hard to take. If it was a game where we’d been rolled over 4-0 or 5-0, fair enough. But we could have taken points had those decisions gone for us. We’re fighting for our lives, so that’s doubly disappointing.’

Probert was a late replacement for Merseyside official Chris Foy, who cannot referee any more Chelsea or Portsmouth games before taking charge of the FA Cup final between the two sides.

Taking a leaf out of Arsene Wenger’s book, Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti said of the penalty claims: ‘I didn’t see the incidents. I trust in the referee.

‘I don’t have a reaction. I maintain the same opinion: it’s not my job to judge the work of the referees.

‘It was not an easy game. We knew this because Bolton came to Stamford Bridge to play their game. They play it well. They put pressure on us for all the 90 minutes.

‘Now the Premier League is in our hands. We have more possibility to win (the title) than, with respect, Manchester United and Arsenal but we are not sure.

Carlo Ancelotti

It's in his hands: Carlo Ancelotti says the title is Chelsea's to lose

‘We have to play four games, tough games. We have a derby on Saturday against Tottenham, which won’t be an easy game. We are excited, but we know that we have to fight again. But we’re ready.’

Terry insisted he had not been guilty of handball, saying: ‘It came off the top of my chest.

‘The whole game certainly wasn’t easy with Kevin Davies up front and Jack Wilshere in behind. They caused us problems all night. But I thought we did well.’

Thats what friends are for.jpg
Thats Handy JT.jpg