LONDON, April 14- Chelsea seized control of the Premier League title race as Nicolas Anelka's goal clinched a 1-0 win over Bolton on Tuesday to leave the Blues four points clear at the top of the table.Carlo Ancelotti’s side were well below their best as they laboured to break down stubborn Bolton at Stamford Bridge, but Anelka’s header late in the first half was enough to ensure the Blues extended their lead over second placed Manchester United.
After United’s draw at Blackburn on Sunday, it was essential for Chelsea to press home their advantage and, with just four matches to play, the west London club are now firmly in position to win the league for the first time since 2006.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s claim that Bolton would be an "easy" game for Chelsea had drawn an amused response from Ancelotti, who was quick to dismiss the United manager’s mind games, and Wanderers made the leaders sweat right until the final whistle.
Chelsea kicked off in their best form of the campaign, having scored 17 goals in their last four matches.
There was an early glimpse of that commitment to attack as John Terry came forward to pick out Yuri Zhirkov. The Russian left-back skipped past two defenders and crossed low for Didier Drogba, but his first-time shot curled over the bar.
The Blues looked a little less convincing at the back and South Korean midfielder Lee Chung-Yong fashioned a chance for Bolton with a clever turn and cross towards Matthew Taylor at the far post.
Petr Cech spilled the ball under pressure from Taylor’s challenge, but Paulo Ferreira was on hand to scramble the midfielder’s shot to safety.
It quickly became apparent Bolton had no intention of letting Ferguson’s prediction of a Chelsea stroll come true.
They got stuck into Chelsea at every opportunity and Terry needed treatment after tangling with Taylor before Kevin Davies left Zhirkov with a bloodied head wrapped in bandages following an aerial collision.
Salomon Kalou almost gave Ancelotti’s team the lead in freakish circumstances when Jussi Jaaskelainen pushed Drogba’s free-kick onto the Ivorian, but the ball cannoned off his head and past the post.
Zhirkov’s injury hardly helped Chelsea’s rhythm and he was twice forced to leave the field to patch up his bleeding wound before half-time.
But the Russian returned to play his part as Chelsea took the lead in the 43rd minute.
He rolled a pass wide to Drogba on the left wing and the Ivory Coast striker whipped over a perfect cross that Anelka met with a close-range header which gave Jaaskelainen no chance.
It was Anelka’s first goal in 14 matches since he last netted at Burnley in January and provided the perfect response to this week’s claim from Bolton striker Davies that his former Wanderers team-mate wasn’t happy playing alongside Drogba.
Kalou wasted a chance to put Chelsea in complete control early in the second half as his tame shot allowed Jaaskelainen to save after Drogba’s pass sent the forward clear on goal.
Still, it was clear that Chelsea were below their best and the hosts breathed a sigh of relief when referee Lee Probert turned down Bolton penalty appeals after Lee’s cross appeared to strike Terry high on his arm.
Zhirkov was the only Blues star to offer a constant threat and the Russian forced a fine stop from Jaaskelainen with a rasping near-post drive.
Frank Lampard was denied by a post as his fierce shot struck the woodwork, but Bolton almost snatched a draw as Johan Elmander headed wide and then Ivan Klasnic just failed to hit the target.