It was not to be a happy return to Stamford Bridge for Diego Costa or interim bosses Steve Davis and James Collins as Wolves succumbed to a third successive Premier League defeat on Saturday afternoon thanks to a trio of goals from Chelsea.
The points were to remain in west London on a day of change for the old gold, who remain on the hunt for a permanent head coach. Kai Havertz opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time for the hosts with a looping header, before Chelsea took the game out of sight in the second half, with Christian Pulisic and substitute Armando Broja putting the finishing touches on a comfortable win for the Blues.
In their first game as caretaker bosses, Davis and Collins made three changes to the Wolves side which started last week’s match in the capital against West Ham, with Toti, Adama Traore and Diego Costa coming into the side in place of Rayan Ait-Nouri, the suspended Ruben Neves and the injured Pedro Neto.
And it was a quickfire start from Chelsea, with Conor Gallagher coming inches away from opening the scoring for the hosts as his effort from inside the box beat Jose Sa in the Wolves goal, but not the post as it just drifted wide of the upright.
Wolves were well in the opening 45 minutes though and had opportunities of their own. The first came from Daniel Podence, who was found by Goncalo Guedes’ free-kick, but he was unable to direct his header on target. Joao Moutinho, the captain for the afternoon – deputising for Neves – brought a good save out of Kepa Arrizabalaga as his curling free-kick was palmed away by the Chelsea keeper.
But it was the hosts who dominated the shot count and it was only wayward shooting which kept them from opening the scoring earlier than they did. Pulisic was the main culprit as he blazed several shots over Sa’s crossbar, while Mason Mount also missed the target with a couple of loose efforts.
However, Wolves were indebted to Sa for keeping the scores level on the half hour mark, as Pulisic’s shot from the edge of the box appeared to be going into the top corner, but the keeper was at full stretch to get his fingertips to the ball.
The game was going from one end to the other and Wolves almost took the lead through Matheus Nunes. The midfielder was found inside the penalty area by Traore but he couldn’t keep his header down.
And just as it looked like Wolves were going to go into the break all-square, Chelsea opened the scoring. After batting down the hatches to deny Chelsea from several crosses into the box, the host’s pressure eventually told as Havertz was found by Mount’s ball into the box.
Half-time | Chelsea 1-0 Wolves
Davis and Collins tried to turn the game in their favour in the second half by introducing under-21 captain Joe Hodge off the bench for his senior Wolves debut, and despite putting in a very good showing, the midfielder found himself on a side which were struggling to keep up with Chelsea’s quality.
Wolves were littering the Chelsea box with crosses throughout the second period, but Diego Costa – making his return to the club where he won two Premier League titles – was unable to pose a threat in the air.
After missing a hatful of opportunities in the first half, Pulisic finally got his name on the scoresheet as he found space between Maximilian Kilman and Nelson Semedo before lifting the ball over the head of Sa, who had tried to close down the angle.
Chelsea were keeping Wolves at arms-length as the visitors looked for a way back into the game, with the visitors relying on crosses from Traore, which were all too often dealt with by Arrizabalaga and his defence.
Although Chem Campbell, who came off the bench late on to replace Traore, had a headed effort which flew narrowly wide, Wolves were unable to get that goal, which would have been consolation after Chelsea’s third came in added time.
Similar to Pulisic’s second, Broja was able to exploit the space between Wolves’ right-sided defenders, he cut inside and curled a shot beyond Sa and inside the far post, putting the finishing touches on a happy afternoon for the Londoners, while sending Wolves back to the West Midlands looking to regroup under their interim bosses.
Full-time | Chelsea 3-0 Wolves
Chelsea | Kepa, Azpilicueta, Chalobah, Koulibaly, Cucurella, Jorginho, Loftus-Cheek (Kovacic 66), Gallagher (Chukwuemeka 86), Mount (Broja 72), Pulisic (James 72), Havertz (Ziyech 86).
Unused subs | Mendy, Aubameyang, Sterling, Chilwell.
Wolves | Sa, Semedo, Kilman, Toti, Jonny (Ait-Nouri 72), Moutinho, Nunes, A. Traore (Campbell 72), Podence, Guedes (Hodge 46), Costa (Hwang 56).
Unused subs | Sarkic, Mosquera, Bueno, Ronan.
Referee | Simon Hooper