Hull City 0 Chelsea 4: Hull proves to be Grant's welcome break

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The Independent Online

Victories like this were routine for Jose Mourinho – although he would have curled his lip as Chelsea kept attacking when the contest was over – but Hull away will forever have a place in the heart of his successor Avram Grant.

Not that he has found his way into the affections of Chelsea's supporters. There were songs for Mourinho, Frank Lampard and even Gianfranco Zola, but the Israeli? Nothing. It may take more than dismissing a side languishing 18th in the Championship, and fielding a weakened line-up, for that to happen.

But there was also an ironic chant of "boring, boring Chelsea" and Grant, charged with creating a more entertaining style, can be pleased with that. This was, after all, not just a would-be banana skin for the new manager, coming to grips with his elevation, but a whole crate of fetid, stinking fruit that could have been poured over his head with anything short of a resounding win.

The Carling Cup, of which Chelsea are the holders, was the first trophy won by Mourinho. Whether Grant is even still around for the final next spring, never mind reaching it, remains to be seen. But there was satisfaction in the performance and the goals even if owner Roman Abramovich was delayed and wasn't, apparently, able to fly north to take up one of the 24 seats reserved for his entourage.

"I think he missed a good game," said Grant, wary of accusations that it is his pay-master, not he, who is picking the team but emboldened by a vibrant performance to try a little wit of his own. "Our target is to score many goals and play attacking football," he added. It's the kind of statement that would have had Mourinho throwing his arms up in disgust. Surely, he would have said, the only target is winning? But, as he found out, that ultimately was not enough.

Grant awoke yesterday to claims that, after just one week in situ, his job had been offered to Marco van Basten. Chelsea responded robustly to that by denying any such thing, though such is their record of not being totally clear with the truth, so to speak, it was probably a waste of time doing so. But it backed the new man and he responded with a selection of intent and a first-choice core. He knew he could not lose so there was no rest for John Terry and his bruised toe or, after the events of last week, his bruised ego either.

There was, however, no place for Andrei Shevchenko, who found himself parked on the bench as Chelsea propelled Hull back with a succession of corners. It was a long way for the Ukrainian to travel to not take part although he could have been forgiven for rolling his eyes opportunities were wasted.

Hull gradually worked their way back into the match, prompted by the guile of Jay-Jay Okocha and, also, aided by a wretched performance by Ashley Cole. But nerves were steadied when Shaun Wright-Phillips – who later hobbled off although Grant claimed he was "fine" – pulled the ball back to Scott Sinclair. The 18-year-old calmly arced a right-foot shot into the corner of the net for his first Chelsea goal.

Immediately after the interval Chelsea struck again. It was a sweeping move with Claudio Pizarro nimbly picking out Salomon Kalou who attempted to head home but was beaten to it by the hapless Damien Delaney for an own goal. Suddenly Chelsea were on fire even if Hull's Ian Ashbee missed a glorious headed opportunity.

Another swift attack, with Ashley Cole and Pizarro combining down the left, ended with the ball being laid to Steve Sidwell who struck home a crisp drive from 25 yards. Terry had a header cleared off the line and then Joe Cole, an eager substitute, skipped down the left and picked out Kalou who side-footed in to complete the scoring.

The Hull manager, Phil Brown, was phlegmatic. "It was always going to be about Chelsea and Avram Grant," he said. "They've proved a point. Avram's got a great chance." It may not be a universally-held view but his prospects have certainly improved.

Hull City (4-2-3-1): Myhill; Ricketts, Turner, Brown, Delaney (Dawson, 53); Ashbee, Livermore; Pedersen (Featherstone, 73), Okocha, Elliott (Garcia, 53), McPhee. Substitutes not used: Woodhead (gk), Hughes.

Chelsea (4-4-2): Cudicini; Belletti, Ben Haim, Terry, A Cole (Bridge, 65); Wright-Phillips (J Cole, 49), Essien (Makelele, 73), Sidwell, Sinclair; Kalou Pizarro. Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Shevchenko.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

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