Premier League: Chelsea 4-0 Portsmouth

Deco was instrumental in the Blues' opening day romp, scoring his side's fourth in their 4-0 win over Portsmouth

This is the sort of boredom they have been crying out for at Stamford Bridge. Chelsea were much too clever and effective for the opposition, ensuring that the uninteresting second half was just a statutory requirement. Even then there was still a twinge of pain for Portsmouth as Deco, on his competitive debut, rattled a 30-yarder that David James could only help into the net a minute from the close.

Chelsea fans were thrilled by the football laid before them prior to the interval. The movement in a layered midfield ensured elusiveness and Harry Redknapp's side must almost have felt haunted by all the ghostly presences. The style was reminiscent of Luiz Felipe Scolari's previous work with Brazil and Portugal. In this ideas were translated perfectly into the language of the Premier League.

The display had an expansiveness that was not among Jose Mourinho's aspirations. He, of course, is not to be chided for an approach that made him the most successful manager in Chelsea's history.

Nonetheless Mourinho had a penchant for controversy and conflict that was debilitating and, in the end, the club's owner, Roman Abramovich, could apparently bear no more of it.

Dispensing with Mourinho was a questionable decision and Avram Grant had little hope of distracting anyone from the feats of the Portuguese. Scolari, a World Cup winner, does not need to convince anyone of his standing but the Mourinho period is the context by which subsequent Chelsea managers will be judged.

The newcomer, with his high profile and vivid character, ought to cope. Scolari has seemingly converted the squad to his approach at high speed and there were no reservations in the mind of the Chelsea players. They opened as if they had always craved this sort of football and it must be appreciated how unusual this kind of drubbing is for Portsmouth.

Last season Redknapp's side conceded 26 goals over the course of 19 away matches in the Premier League. It was only a week ago that they forced a goalless draw against Manchester United, prior to the penalty shoot-out defeat in the Community Shield.

At Stamford Bridge, by contrast, they were immediately on the brink of capitulation. The back four was disoriented since it was so hard to identify the danger as Chelsea, with Nicolas Anelka as a lone striker, devastated with flowing midfield play that was a tidal wave to the Portsmouth defence. Michael Ballack was the best of the quintet before his ankle injury but home fans could have had a merry debate on the topic as contributions were made by many players.

Redknapp was repentant afterwards about fielding two strikers. Hard as Jermain Defoe and Peter Crouch worked, they had scant bearing on the game and Portsmouth were outnumbered in midfield. There was a sureness of touch by Chelsea that left the visitors baffled in the 12th minute. Deco pitched the ball forward, Anelka chested it back and Ballack put Joe Cole through with a sweet pass. The England midfielder fired across James for the opener.

Cole, mostly keeping in close contact with Anelka here, has been viewed as potentially surplus to requirements at Chelsea. While he did scuff wide from a fine opening in the second half Cole went about as far as he could in illustrating the merit of keeping him on the payroll.

Mikel John Obi was another who pressed his claim, while the regular holding midfielder Michael Essien was missing through injury. Portsmouth, in truth, did not often harass him but there was a calm about Mikel that was unfamiliar. Chelsea, indeed, got through the afternoon without a yellow card. That saintly statistic comes more readily to a side at peace with itself. The team was encouraged, too, by the dynamism of Jose Bosingwa in his first competitive appearance for the club. The right-back raced down his flank and Ashley Cole had as much licence on the other wing.

It was the Portuguese who hit the deep cross in the 26th minute that James ought to have left to others. Instead the goalkeeper chased after it and was stranded as Deco chipped the ball into the middle for Anelka to head home.

There were twitches of pride from the visitors and Petr Cech, after 43 minutes, had to pull off a double save from Niko Kranjcar and Crouch but that was a digression from the real story of the match. Two minutes later an effort by Joe Cole hit the outstretched left arm of Sylvain Distin and Frank Lampard marked the start of his new Chelsea contract by sending James the wrong way from the penalty spot.

If need be, his side would have come up with even more goals before Deco's spectacular strike. That drive capped the contribution of a man who had already invited Anelka on to the scoresheet. However, the Portugal midfielder did waste the ball now and again. It must be pleasing to Scolari that his side was overwhelming while also showing that it can certainly improve.

The audience had no quibbles. They had witnessed svelte, imaginative football and, with Didier Drogba absent because of a knee injury, Anelka hinted that he might regain his old sharpness after that blunt spell under Grant. The line-up may not have been overhauled radically but Scolari has met his first target by showing that everything has still changed radically.

Several players made important contributions for Chelsea but the attacking right-back, on his competitive debut for the Blues, gave the team a drive on the wing that has been lacking.

Man of the match Jo Bosingwa (Chelsea)

Several players made important contributions for Chelsea but the attacking right-back, on his competitive debut for the Blues, gave the team a drive on the wing that has been lacking.

Best moment His run and deep cross to the back post that led to Anelka's goal was full-back play at its finest and explains why Chelsea agreed to pay £16.2m for him.


Kevin McCarra at Stamford Bridge

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