LONDON - Goals by Florent Malouda and Salomon Kalou and a club record eighth consecutive home clean sheet helped Chelsea open a five-point lead in the Premier League with a 2-0 win over Wolverhampton Wanderers on Saturday.
Malouda struck his seventh league goal of the season and Kalou came off the bench to seal victory after the break for Carlo Ancelotti's side whose early-season torrent of goals has slowed to a trickle in recent weeks.
Tottenham Hotspur rose to third, seven points behind Chelsea, after Dutchman Rafael van der Vaart made it five goals in seven since joining the north London club.
The midfielder notched the equaliser in a 1-1 draw at home to improving Everton.
West Bromwich Albion continued their dream start to life back in the top flight, moving into fourth place with a 2-1 home defeat of Fulham while Birmingham City beat Blackpool 2-0.
Sunderland edged Aston Villa 1-0 and Wigan Athletic's home match against Bolton Wanderers ended 1-1. West Ham United stayed bottom after a 2-1 home defeat by Newcastle United.
Chelsea were not the fluent force that racked up 21 goals in their opening five league matches but were watertight at the back against Wolves.
It took them 23 minutes to break through against a lively visiting side and it was not until the 81st minute that Wolves were finally subdued.
"It was a tough game because we didn't play so well," Ancelotti told reporters. "We suffered from some dangerous situations in the first half and in the second half we conceded too many shots from distance.
"We could have closed the game before the second goal, we had a lot of chances, but we didn't play as well as we usually do."
The opening goal owed much to the enterprise down the left of Nicolas Anelka. He played in Yuri Zhirkov and the Russian pulled the ball back into the path of Malouda who was unmarked eight metres out.
Chelsea have not conceded a league goal at home since March but Wolves came close to breaching the Blue wall on several occasions, most notably when Stephen Hunt's header was cleared off the line by Michael Essien.
Kevin Doyle also forced keeper Petr Cech to save a low shot and there was a growing sense of unease in the crowd before Kalou made it 2-0 after Essien and Didier Drogba linked up well.
Ancelotti picked out right-back Jose Bosingwa for special praise after the Portuguese made his first league start for a year following a serious knee injury.
"Bosingwa was one of the best players on the pitch," said the coach. "He put a lot of pressure on in the second half by pushing up without the ball and he had opportunities to score.
"He played very well and he is an important player for us in the future."
Promoted West Brom are proving surprise packages under the astute management of former Chelsea midfielder Roberto di Matteo.
"This is beyond my expectations," Di Matteo said after his side came from behind to beat Fulham with goals by Youssuf Mulumbu and Marc-Antoine Fortune.
"I have absolutely no idea if we can keep it going. There is no secret - it's hard work."comments