Chelsea came up short in their bid to wrest the English Premier League title back from Mancester United as they were held to a 1-1 draw by battling Bolton at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
United’s victory over Wigan handed them the title regardless of the Chelsea result, so the Blues’ goal from second-half substitute Andriy Shevchenko and the equaliser from Kevin Davies were rendered irrelevant.
Chelsea were left to rue the two dropped points in their 1-1 home draw against Wigan last month which could have left them in control of their own destiny on the thrilling final day of the season.
They can now turn their attention to their showdown with United in the Champions League final on May 21, but Chelsea fans’ hearts were in their mouths when captain John Terry was stretchered off after just 15 minutes against Bolton.
The England centre-back left the pitch with his arm in a makeshift sling after apparently landing awkwardly while challenging for a high cross in his own penalty area.
But Terry returned to the pitch at the final whistle to announce that he had only suffered a dislocated elbow and should be fit against after a few days’ rest.
“I’m OK, I just dislocated an elbow. There is no break and no broken bones,” he said. “I know we have lost out in the league but we have the biggest trophy of all in front of us.
“Hopefully we can go to Moscow and bring it home to the Chelsea fans.”
On a hot early summer’s day which saw the players gulping down water at every opportunity, Bolton — who had already guaranteed their Premiership status before kickoff — packed their central defence to make life difficult for the Londoners.
Before Shevchenko stabbed home a deflected shot from close range early in the second half, Didier Drogba should have put the match beyond Bolton’s reach on a number of occasions.
The muscular Ivory Coast striker’s best chance came in the second half when a powerful dribble was followed by a rasping angled shot that forced Bolton keeper Ali Al Habsi to tip the ball on to the crossbar.
But Al Habsi was powerless minutes later to stop Shevchenko putting a gloss on a disappointing season for the Ukrainian.
Bolton showed few signs that they had spent the week partying, as Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson had claimed.
But although Gary Megson’s team harried their technically superior opponents, they rarely threatened Petr Cech’s goal until the final moments.
Chelsea coach Avram Grant’s decision to bring on Shevchenko at half-time was an inspired substitution to bolster their attacking options.
The Ukrainian seemed to have given Chelsea victory before Davies popped up in the closing minutes to silence the home fans.
Chelsea toiled away, with most of the attacking thrust throughout the match coming from Michael Essien and Joe Cole on the right.
Drogba spurned two chances to give the Blues a first-half lead, slotting the ball wide from a low Ballack cross before sliding a free-kick narrowly past the post.
Cech, wearing a new fluorescent orange shirt designed by its manufacturers to put off opposing strikers, was rarely called into action.
The best early chance came after 10 minutes when Drogba shot narrowly wide from a low Ballack cross to the far post. Drogba came close again on 23 minutes when his free kick bounced wide.
Then came the Terry blow, the England international clearly immediately in pain as he crashed into the turf.
Kevin Davies added another booking to his considerable season’s tally when he tripped Florent Malouda as he charged towards goal, before the Bolton striker redeemed himself with a last-minute goal that ensured the two teams shared the spoils.
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