Blues cruise past Mick McCarthy's visitors at Stamford Bridge thanks to a trio of first-half goals that keep them in touch with the top four as they halt their poor run of form
The Blues were ahead through their captain after seven minutes and hit few roadblocks on their way to a 3-0 win against struggling Wolves, who have now won just once since the two victories they recorded to start the Premier League season.
Andre Villas-Boas chose to rest Frank Lampard as Oriol Romeu was brought into the midfield for his first Premier League start. Ashley Cole returned from injury, so stand-in left-back Jose Bosingwa dropped out of the side with Branislav Ivanovic slotting into the right side of defence.
Didier Drogba was once again preferred to Fernando Torres in attack, with the Spaniard part of a substitute’s bench that included Lampard, Salomon Kalou and Florent Malouda.
Kevin Doyle sat out through injury with Steven Fletcher starting in attack for the visitors, with Stephen Ward and Matthew Jarvis manning the flanks.
Ronald Zubar, who has missed nine months of action due to various injury problems, came in at right-back with Richard Stearman’s broken wrist keeping him sidelined.
If the Blues were lacking confidence following their recent poor run of form, they didn’t show it in the early stages of this match. After Raul Meireles just missed the target with the first shot of the game, Ramires did well to win the ball in midfield before his effort from 18 yards was palmed around the post by Wayne Hennessey.
Any lingering nerves were fully settled from the resulting corner, as Terry rose to meet Mata’s cross and perfectly place his header into the far corner beyond Hennessey.
When Mata nearly doubled the lead moments later, sending Ivanovic’s low ball flying over the crossbar, it became clear Mick McCarthy's men may be in a for a difficult afternoon.
While their chances became fewer in number, Villas-Boas’ side remained in control of proceedings, with Cole providing a particularly useful outlet down the left-hand side, while the clever Meireles was busy in midfield.
Wolves’ first chance of the match came when Ward reacted well to meet Jarvis’ cross from the left, but the Irishman couldn’t control his header and missed the target.
Victory Mata's | The Spaniard completed a 3-0 victory as Chelsea stop the rot
When the Blues’ next opportunity did come, they made it count in clinical fashion. Mata, once again at the centre of Chelsea’s best play, sped past Zubar down the left and slid a low ball across goal that Sturridge turned home with ease to double the lead.
He then showcased his more explosive side as the half drew to a close. Picking up the ball on the right-hand side, the former Manchester City man cut inside past George Elokobi and thundered the ball off of his left foot towards the top corner only to be denied by an excellent save from Hennessey.
McCarthy introduced Sylvan Ebanks-Blake as the visitors switched to 4-4-2, with Nenad Milijas withdrawn, but the immediate consequences were not positive as Chelsea found time for a superb third before the interval. Cole’s knee-high cross was met directly on the volley by Mata, who recorded a deserved goal of his own.
Ebanks-Blake did show the sort of movement that might have sparked Wolves into life as the second half got underway. He dropped into space to collect a pass before slipping a neat ball through to Ward, but Petr Cech played his angles well and the midfielder could only drag his shot wide.
There was more tempo to Wolves’ play but Chelsea continued to look threatening on the break thanks to the athleticism of Ramires.
Sturridge was the beneficiary of one such burst from the Brazilian and skipped past Christophe Berra into the Wolves box only to find Drogba to be unusually slow off the mark as he poked the ball across goal, with Roger Johnson making the clearance.
Mata and Sturridge, finding huge amounts of space between the Wolves midfield and defence to exploit, were both denied by Hennessey in spectacular fashion with 20 minutes to play.
The Englishman's burst down the left drew the initial save before the Irish goalkeeper, still recovering from the first effort, threw himself at the Spaniard's follow-up and pushed it away.
At the other end, Cech was determined not to be outdone. Jarvis retrieved a rebound after his own effort had been well saved and squared for Ward, who was denied as the Czech Republic ‘keeper raced across his goal.
With Drogba quiet, the Chelsea supporters began to call for the introduction of Torres, and Villas-Boas complied as he brought on the 27-year-old, who looked sharp but could not find his way past Hennessey during his 10 minutes or so on the field.
It did not much matter on this occasion, though, as Chelsea secured a confidence-boosting three points against a worryingly limited-looking Wolves side.
Commentaries, Stats, Player Ratings and much more,
Visit Goal.com Live Scores!