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Lamps on target as Scolari era starts

SoccerNews in English Premier League 23 Jul 2008


Frank Lampard underlined his value to Chelsea with a spectacular long-range lob as the Luiz Felipe Scolari era got under way with a 4-0 romp against Guangzhou Pharmaceutical on Wednesday.

Argentine teen Franco Di Santo scored on his debut while Salomon Kalou and Shaun Wright-Phillips also impressed the new coach in front of 30,000 fans here.

Chelsea have reportedly offered the unsettled Lampard a new deal worth 150,000 pounds (300,000 dollars) a week, which would make him England's best paid footballer.

And the 30-year-old looked in celebratory mood as he chipped home past 'keeper Li Shuai from 20 yards before picking out Wright-Phillips with a raking pass that travelled half the length of the field.

It was the perfect tonic for Lampard, the subject of feverish transfer speculation, and the ideal start for Scolari as he sets about re-stocking the Chelsea trophy cabinet.

“It's always good to win the first match, even if it doesn't matter very much,” Scolari said.

“The team was relaxed, we had some problems physically but nothing we can't sort out.”

Chelsea went close early on through Lampard, Michael Essien and the lively Nicolas Anelka, who saw a shot saved from close range after a one-two with debutant Deco.

As another new signing, Jose Bosingwa, trudged off with a thigh strain after just 20 minutes, Kalou latched onto a diagonal ball to plant the opener past Guangzhou's Li.

Essien twice forced the 'keeper into action and Anelka teed up Lampard's weak shot before rattling the right post with a powerful drive as the visitors threatened to run riot.

But Guangzhou found a way through the one-way traffic and Petr Cech was forced into a smart stop, parrying Xu Liang's near-post free-kick against the woodwork on the stroke of half-time.

Substitute Wayne Bridge hit the post early in the second term before Lampard brought the crowd to its feet with his classy chip and greeted the applause with relish.

Nineteen-year-old Di Santo, who had already hit the post after replacing Anelka at half-time, met Malouda's cross at the far post as he marked his debut with a goal on 78 minutes.

Wright-Phillips, who has been linked with Portsmouth, swivelled and shot wide from Lampard's 50-yard ball before wrapping up the scoring from Bridge's cross with two minutes left.

Andrei Shevchenko was rested due to lack of match fitness and Joe Cole sat out after picking up a knock in training. Portuguese star Deco lasted 62 minutes and there was also a run-out for Branislav Ivanovic.

Scolari, the ex-Portugal boss who took Brazil to the 2002 World Cup title, starts the job under no illusions about the expectations of billionaire owner Roman Abramovich.

His immediate predecessor Avram Grant was sacked despite taking Chelsea to their first Champions League final and finishing just two points behind Manchester United in the Premiership.

Jose Mourinho, who assembled much of the current team, left under a cloud last year despite delivering six trophies in three years and remaining unbeaten in home league matches.

Scolari has also been welcomed with a broadside from Manchester United boss Alex Ferguson, who suggested his squad were too old to reach new heights.


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