Essien scored a brace at Stamford Bridge to round off an outstanding display
By Sam Lyon
Chelsea ran riot to rout strugglers Wolves and retain a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League.
It was a stellar Blues display despite a host of absences, kick-started by Florent Malouda's 22-yard strike.
Michael Essien then grabbed two in 10 minutes, heading home unmarked and squeezing in from the edge of the area, before Joe Cole clipped in on the hour.
Wolves came closest when Petr Cech kept out Sylvan Ebanks-Blake's header, but in truth they could have lost by more.
The victory briefly extended Chelsea's lead at the top of the table to eight points thanks to Arsenal's defeat at Sunderland but Manchester United beat Everton 3-0 in the late match to close the gap.
However, Chelsea, even at this early stage, appear favourites to win their first championship since 2006.
Ancelotti rules out January signings
Their excellent return of 33 points from a possible 39 has been borne out of a combination of silky attacks and sturdy defence - both of which were on display against Wolves.
In fact the clean sheet, the 10th straight shut-out at Stamford Bridge, saw Carlo Ancelotti's men equal the club record set way back in 1927.
As if Wolves needed any warning as to the size of the task at hand before kick-off, in their last outing Chelsea overcame champions Manchester United to maintain their 100% home record under Ancelotti.
However, with the Blues coming off the back of the international break with Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Deco, Michael Ballack and Ricardo Carvalho all unavailable, the visitors might have sniffed a chance of an upset.
Three goals in the opening 21 minutes put paid to that idea.
Malouda got the hosts up and running, latching on to Jody Craddock's tame clearance and then lashing a rocket into the roof of the net.
He then set Essien up for the second from a corner, the Ghanaian heading home unmarked at the near post.
And the midfielder grabbed his second from outside the area when his shot squirmed under the keeper.
It was a salvo from which Wolves never looked like recovering, and at times the match resembled an exhibition.
Chelsea's movement and incisiveness in attack was irresistable at times, and the performances of Joe Cole, Essien and Malouda in particular are sure to give the Wolves defenders nightmares for weeks to come.
The visitors were in many ways the architects of their own downfall, though, granting Chelsea's midfield the freedom of Stamford Bridge as they failed to press their opponents across the park.
But they did at least show the odd glimpse of promise in attack, David Edwards twice breaking beyond the Blues defence but failing to get on the end of crosses and Ebanks-Blake bringing a stunning save from Cech with a downward header from Andrew Surman's centre.
McCarthy laments defensive lapses
Those attacks were all too rare, though, and otherwise the match was a procession for the Blues.
Joe Cole kick-started Chelsea's second-half dominance with his first goal in over a year, the playmaker stroking home from Salomon Kalou's lay-off, and a shell-shocked Wolves were almost entirely on the back foot thereafter.
Essien came closest to a fifth for Chelsea, first forcing keeper Wayne Hennessey to tip on to the bar with a drilled effort from range, and then grazing the outside of the post with a curler from 18 yards out.
And second-half substitute Gael Kakuta - the player at the centre of the Blues' potential transfer ban controversy - showed off his box of tricks on debut before drilling inches past the post late in the game.
As it was, Wolves will be thankful at least to have escaped London with just four goals against them for the second time in a fortnight.
The defeat keeps them rooted in the bottom three - and things do not get much easier for them, with away trips to Tottenham, Manchester United and Liverpool to come.
But for Chelsea, whose electric performance only served to underline their impressive strength in depth, their title charge could hardly be on a straighter track.
Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti: "When we win, I am happy. When we play well, I am also happy. Today we did both things and played a great match.
"It was comfortable today. The team have improved their play, they are full of confidence and they are showing what they can do.
"We also showed we have a very good squad. Everyone asks about the future and the African Cup of Nations in January, but today you saw we have excellent young players and will be able to cope."
Wolves manager Mick McCarthy: "I agree with Carlo - his side were fantastic. We've basically been beaten up with the ball today.
"But I have to take positives, even though there are loads of negatives. We might have gifted them the first two goals, but we did create chances and that's a positive.
"I know that sounds hollow and stupid when we've lost by four and it could have been more, but we gave them two goals and that's always going to make the difference.
"We are in a relegation dogfight from now on. We might as well understand that and get on with it. If we're honest we didn't expect to get anything from our last two games, but now we move on."
90:00+2:39 The referee signals the end of the game.
90:00+2:03 Corner taken right-footed by Matthew Jarvis from the left by-line, clearance made by Juliano Belletti.
89:59 Shot on goal comes in from Alex from the free kick, save by Wayne Hennessey.
89:59 Booking Andrew Keogh is shown a yellow card for unsporting behaviour.
89:45 Free kick awarded for a foul by Andrew Keogh on Mikel.
88:46 The offside flag is raised against Andrew Keogh. Petr Cech takes the free kick.
85:46 Michael Essien produces a right-footed shot from just outside the box that misses to the right of the goal.
84:21 Free kick awarded for a foul by Andrew Surman on Gael Kakuta. Gael Kakuta restarts play with the free kick.
82:55 Free kick awarded for a foul by Andrew Keogh on Mikel. Mikel takes the direct free kick.
82:21 The ball is crossed by Ashley Cole, Michael Essien takes a shot. Blocked by Richard Stearman.
80:34 Foul by Andrew Keogh on Michael Essien, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Mikel.
79:59 Effort from outside the penalty box by Gael Kakuta goes wide left of the target.
Correction - 78:49 Booking Christophe Berra is cautioned.
78:49 Booking Booking for Jody Craddock for unsporting behaviour.
Correction - 78:30 Christophe Berra concedes a free kick for a foul on Fabio Borini. Nemanja Matic takes the direct free kick.
78:30 Christophe Berra challenges Fabio Borini unfairly and gives away a free kick. Nemanja Matic takes the direct free kick.
77:36 Substitution Fabio Borini comes on in place of Salomon Kalou.
77:36 The official flags Salomon Kalou offside. Jody Craddock restarts play with the free kick.
75:29 Matthew Jarvis produces a cross, clearance made by John Terry. Corner taken short by Michael Kightly.
74:08 Ashley Cole fouled by Michael Kightly, the ref awards a free kick. Ashley Cole restarts play with the free kick.
72:19 Karl Henry gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Joe Cole. Mikel restarts play with the free kick. Michael Essien
has shot on goal from just outside the penalty box which goes wide of the right-hand upright.
71:59 Effort on goal by Salomon Kalou from inside the penalty box misses to the right of the target.
68:38 Substitution Nemanja Matic comes on in place of Florent Malouda.
68:38 Foul by Andrew Keogh on Michael Essien, free kick awarded. Free kick taken by Juliano Belletti.
68:10 The referee blows for offside against Salomon Kalou. Wayne Hennessey restarts play with the free kick.
67:50 The ball is swung over by Gael Kakuta, Richard Stearman manages to make a clearance.
66:59 The ball is sent over by Ashley Cole.
66:32 Florent Malouda takes a shot. Blocked by David Edwards.
64:31 Michael Essien produces a right-footed shot from just outside the penalty box that misses to the left of the goal.
63:59 Corner taken by Florent Malouda from the left by-line.
63:40 Corner taken by Juliano Belletti, Greg Halford makes a clearance.
62:57 Jody Craddock challenges Gael Kakuta unfairly and gives away a free kick. Free kick crossed by Florent Malouda, Greg Halford
manages to make a clearance.
62:28 Michael Essien takes the chance to get an effort at goal. Save by Wayne Hennessey.
61:25 Substitution Sylvan Ebanks-Blake leaves the field to be replaced by Andrew Keogh.
61:04 Shot by Gael Kakuta from deep inside the penalty area misses to the right of the target.
59:24 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Juliano Belletti by Andrew Surman. Juliano Belletti takes the free kick.
58:35 Substitution Gael Kakuta comes on in place of Nicolas Anelka.
55:46 The assist for the goal came from Salomon Kalou.
55:46 GOAL - Joe Cole:Chelsea 4 - 0 Wolverhampton Joe Cole scores a goal from just outside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Chelsea 4-0 Wolverhampton.
55:45 The ball is crossed by Nicolas Anelka,
54:50 Free kick awarded for an unfair challenge on Jody Craddock by Salomon Kalou. Wayne Hennessey restarts play with the free kick.
53:05 Unfair challenge on Joe Cole by Jody Craddock results in a free kick. Mikel takes the direct free kick.
52:07 Substitution Michael Kightly joins the action as a substitute, replacing Segundo Castillo.
52:07 Free kick awarded for a foul by David Edwards on Ashley Cole. Direct free kick taken by Petr Cech.
51:20 The ball is delivered by Florent Malouda, Alex takes a shot. Wayne Hennessey makes a save.
50:14 Florent Malouda takes a shot. Greg Halford gets a block in. Corner taken by Joe Cole from the left by-line, clearance by Segundo
48:32 The ball is swung over by Richard Stearman.
45:01 The game restarts for the second half.
45:00+1:04 The players leave the pitch at half time.
43:17 The ball is sent over by Matthew Jarvis.
40:55 David Edwards produces a cross, blocked by Florent Malouda.
40:25 Foul by Alex on Sylvan Ebanks-Blake, free kick awarded. Greg Halford takes the free kick.
39:06 Florent Malouda takes a shot. Wayne Hennessey makes a save.
38:41 Shot from just outside the penalty box by Karl Henry misses to the left of the target.
38:01 Matthew Jarvis delivers the ball, David Edwards takes a shot. Save by Petr Cech. Inswinging corner taken left-footed by Andrew
Surman from the right by-line, Salomon Kalou makes a clearance.
36:14 David Edwards sends in a cross, John Terry manages to make a clearance.
35:10 Foul by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake on Juliano Belletti, free kick awarded. Direct free kick taken by Juliano Belletti.
Correction - 34:26 The offside flag is raised against Richard Stearman. Direct free kick taken by Alex.
34:26 The assistant referee flags for offside against Andrew Surman. Alex restarts play with the free kick.
32:15 Joe Cole takes a shot. The offside flag is raised against Ashley Cole. Wayne Hennessey takes the indirect free kick.
31:30 Centre by Matthew Jarvis.
30:21 The ball is swung over by Juliano Belletti, clearance made by Jody Craddock.
28:58 Segundo Castillo challenges Florent Malouda unfairly and gives away a free kick. Florent Malouda restarts play with the free
kick. Alex takes a shot. Blocked by Sylvan Ebanks-Blake.
25:58 Michael Essien delivers the ball, clearance made by Wayne Hennessey. Short corner taken by Florent Malouda.
24:29 Free kick awarded for a foul by Salomon Kalou on Segundo Castillo. Free kick taken by Wayne Hennessey.
23:14 Andrew Surman takes a shot. Juliano Belletti gets a block in. Corner taken left-footed by Andrew Surman to the near post,
clearance made by Michael Essien.
22:52 Corner taken by Matthew Jarvis from the right by-line to the near post, Florent Malouda manages to make a clearance.
Correction - 21:26 Salomon Kalou provided the assist for the goal.
21:26 Assist on the goal came from Florent Malouda.
21:26 GOAL - Michael Essien:Chelsea 3 - 0 Wolverhampton Michael Essien fires in a goal from outside the penalty area to the bottom right corner of the goal. Chelsea 3-0 Wolverhampton.
18:08 The ball is delivered by Salomon Kalou.
17:50 Michael Essien takes a shot. Blocked by Jody Craddock.
14:27 Shot by Salomon Kalou from just outside the area goes over the net.
12:37 David Edwards has an effort at goal from deep inside the area missing to the right of the target.
11:38 Assist by Florent Malouda.
11:38 GOAL - Michael Essien:Chelsea 2 - 0 Wolverhampton Michael Essien scores a headed goal from inside the six-yard box. Chelsea 2-0 Wolverhampton.
11:10 Salomon Kalou takes a shot. Save by Wayne Hennessey. Florent Malouda takes a inswinging corner to the near post,
9:41 The ball is sent over by Nicolas Anelka, Joe Cole takes a shot.
5:26 Outswinging corner taken from the right by-line by Matthew Jarvis.
4:21 GOAL - Florent Malouda:Chelsea 1 - 0 Wolverhampton Florent Malouda grabs a goal from outside the box to the top left corner of the goal. Chelsea 1-0 Wolverhampton.
4:03 Sylvan Ebanks-Blake takes a shot. Alex gets a block in.
3:30 Matthew Jarvis delivers the ball.
2:45 Sylvan Ebanks-Blake fouled by Alex, the ref awards a free kick. Andrew Surman takes the direct free kick.
0:00 The match has kicked off.
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