Frank Lampard’s return fell flat as aimless Chelsea slipped to a 1-0 defeat at Wolves.
Matheus Nunes’ stunning strike gave the hosts another survival lifeline and kept Chelsea rooted in turmoil.
The poor visitors, on their third manager of the season after Graham Potter’s sacking last Sunday, turned to Lampard on Thursday in a bid to save their wretched season.
Co-owner Todd Boehly would have expected a reaction – or at the very least to see Chelsea regroup – but he got another limp performance as they remain in the bottom half of the Premier League.
As for Wolves, it was a vital win in their relegation battle which lifted them four points clear of the bottom three to 12th, just a place behind Chelsea. That they did it without suspended talisman and skipper Ruben Neves was further credit and it gives the hosts a platform for survival.
Lampard immediately recalled Conor Gallagher and Raheem Sterling but there was nothing to suggest Chelsea’s record goalscorer had sprinkled enough magic to dramatically change their course.
Yet, the hosts were allowed to build momentum which at least put Chelsea under regular pressure with Wesley Fofana deflecting Mario Lemina’s shot wide.
Lampard’s men, with the exception of Gallagher, lacked energy with Wolves sensing their chance was coming – and it did in stunning style after 31 minutes.
Daniel Podence’s cross was flicked by Matheus Cunha and then touched on by Koulibaly to fall to Nunes for the midfielder to smash in a wonderful angled half-volley across Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Former Chelsea forward Diego Costa, still waiting for his first Wolves goal, was denied by Kepa soon after as the expensively assembled visitors failed to show much fight. They drifted without a purpose as Lampard’s surprise return failed to deliver.
In contrast, Wolves’ combative and battle-hardened display was exactly what was required amid the crazy relegation fight which has enveloped half of the league.
It left them open on the break – with Costa and Nunes both wasting chances – but they were at least on top for the first time in the game.
Lampard called for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang with 22 minutes left but the striker, without a goal since October or a start since November, made little difference.
Time eventually ran out and, excluding youth product Trevoh Chalobah, Lampard introduced £207.5million worth of talent from the bench without success – only underlining Chelsea’s disastrous campaign as Wolves held firm.