Unbeaten Premier League leaders Chelsea defied the absence of £100 million (US$173 million) in talent to run riot with a stunning 5-0 victory at Middlesbrough yesterday.
Luiz Felipe Scolari’s in-form side strolled past Boro with four goals in 16 second-half minutes in an embarrassingly easy victory at the Riverside Stadium.
It was a result and a performance that piled the pressure on the chasing pack, as Chelsea chalked up their latest win without seven injured first-team players for yesterday’s early kick-off.
Despite the absence of Didier Drogba, Joe Cole, Michael Essien, Ashley Cole, Petr Cech, Ricardo Carvalho and Michael Ballack, with the returning Deco on the bench, Chelsea’s 10-month unbeaten league run never looked under serious threat from a hugely disappointing Middlesbrough.
Salomon Kalou opened the floodgates with a calm close-range finish on 14 minutes after a makeshift Middlesbrough defense missing three regulars failed to deal with a searching Wayne Bridge cross.
But it was early in the second half when Chelsea really hit top gear to rip Middlesbrough to shreds with some stunning play.
Juliano Belletti put the result beyond doubt by doubling the lead on 51 minutes with a spectacular 30m strike into the top corner beyond Ross Turnbull. If Middlesbrough thought their visitors would then step off the gas to save themselves for their up-coming Champions League meeting with AS Roma, they were wrong.
Kalou struck his second with the aid of a hefty deflection off David Wheater after latching onto Florent Malouda’s inviting 53rd-minute cut-back, before Frank Lampard weighed in with the fourth 10 minutes later thanks to a diving header from Kalou’s cross.
It wasn’t long before the fifth arrived, Turnbull spilling a Nicolas Anelka shot against a post to allow the alert Malouda in to knock the loose ball into an empty net from close range.
It proved to be a gentle return for skipper John Terry, who did his bit to ease the Stamford Bridge casualty list by recovering from the back injury that kept him out of England’s last two games, retaining his ever-present record in the Premier League this season.
Boro quickly scrapped their attacking 4-4-2 to adopt a more cautious five-man midfield after falling behind, but despite the tactical switch it appeared only a matter of time before Chelsea added a nerve-soothing second to their tally.
Malouda looked like doubling the advantage after half-an-hour, and the midfielder should have done better when dragging a shot across the face of goal after exploiting the alarming gaps in the Middlesbrough area.
The interval failed to stem the one-way traffic and immediately after the re-start only a fine save from Turnbull prevented Malouda adding his name to the score-sheet after the midfielder made the most of hesitancy from Jonathan Grounds to burst through.
It wasn’t long before Chelsea’s class told and even after their four-goal burst they came close to adding a sixth as Anelka saw an effort ruled out for offside, before Turnbull blocked his low shot to save further embarrassment.
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