Chelsea manager Luiz Felipe Scolari enjoyed a spectacular debut as his side turned on the style to rout Portsmouth 4-0 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday.
Scolari had spoken at length this week about his desire to bring a touch of Brazilian flair to a Chelsea side always high on perspiration but sometimes low on inspiration.
His new charges seem to have got the message already. Their touch, speed and movement left Portsmouth bewildered and produced a demolition that took the breath away.
Goals from Joe Cole and Nicolas Anelka put Scolari’s team in control before Frank Lampard’s penalty capped the most impressive 45 minutes you will see this season. Deco added a final flourish with a stunning strike in the last minute.
Jose Mourinho brought Chelsea success beyond their wildest dreams but even the ‘Special One’ never put on a show like this.
After Arsenal and Liverpool gave unconvincing displays on Saturday, this was a serious statement of intent from the leading contenders for Manchester United’s title.
While it is only one game and Scolari has clearly inherited a supremely talented squad, the Brazilian has given his players the freedom to express their gifts in a way that promises quite a season in west London.
With Didier Drogba injured, Scolari deployed Anelka as a lone striker and instructed his midfielders to flood forward in support.
After a slightly bashful wave and thumbs up when he was introduced to the crowd, Scolari got down to business and his team followed suit.
With the exception of John Obi Mikel – charged with more defensive duties – Scolari’s five-man midfield were able to interchange and join the attack at will.
It was an awesome sight. Lampard set the tone with a stinging long-range shot before Chelsea broke the deadlock in the 12th minute.
Deco’s flick was chested back by Anelka to Michael Ballack and the German unfurled a sumptuous pass towards Cole, who kept his composure to drive a low shot past James into the far corner.
Anelka should have doubled the lead when Lampard threaded a pass through to the France striker but James saved with his foot.
It was only a temporary respite for Portsmouth as Anelka made amends for that miss in the 26th minute.
Jose Bosingwa, maurading down the right flank with impressive power and purpose, completely unhinged Portsmouth’s defence with a surging run and cross that Deco scooped back into the six-yard box for Anelka to head into the empty net.
Deco has added an extra layer of guile to Chelsea that will make them a more unpredictable threat. Prompted by the Portuguese midfielder they weaved intricate passing patterns around Portsmouth’s flat-footed defence time and again.
The visitors became increasingly flustered and a careless header from Sol Campbell let in Anelka but his shot drifted wide of the far post.
Portsmouth briefly came to life when Niko Kranjcar and Peter Crouch tested Petr Cech in quick succession before Glen Johnson slammed the rebound into the Chelsea goalkeeper’s legs.
That brought Scolari to his feet as the Brazilian demanded more concentration and the Blues responded with a third goal.
Another penetrating move in first half stoppage time ended with Sylvain Distin blocking Cole’s shot with his hand. Referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot and Lampard celebrated his new contract by rolling the penalty past James.
Ballack had come off before half-time with an injury but even that didn’t disrupt Chelsea.
Anelka drove a thunderous effort over the bar early in the second half, then Cole sprinted clear to send a shot just past the far post.
Deco capped Scolari’s perfect day when he smashed a swerving shot into the top corner in the 89th minute.
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