Charlton Athletic 0 Chelsea 2

Valley of tears over Chelsea class gap
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The Independent Football

"Chelsea are so disciplined, powerful and organised that they go into games believing if they score, that's probably it," he said, which was pretty much how things turned out. "They've got so many match-winners and look how hard they work. It's a massive squad and the only problem is fitting them all on the bus and keeping them all happy."

Joe Cole, a substitute again, is the latest dissident to make his unhappiness known, albeit through "a source close to the player". The solution for another Chelsea midfielder, Russia's captain Alexei Smertin, was to ask to be loaned out and Charlton have benefited hugely from his work alongside Danny Murphy in midfield. But under Premiership rules he could not play yesterday and was predictably missed.

Darren Bent, winning praise and prizes in equal measure after scoring in each of the opening four matches, was, on his own admission, up against a different class of defender here; Ricardo Carvalho gave him a good buffeting from behind, and John Terry was a colossus. Only Michael Essien, recruited for a mere £26m, challenged his captain as the afternoon's outstanding figure. "He will get better and better," said Chelsea's coach, Steve Clarke, of the Ghanaian, which is a frightening prospect.

When were the odds against a team lying second in the table ever as long as 6-1 to win a home game? That fact alone illustrated what Charlton and the other middle-ranking wannabes are up against in competing directly against the squad Roman Abram-ovich has bankrolled and the team Jose Mourinho has fashioned.

In the opening period of the game, Mourinho sat on an advertising hoarding admiring the view as his side pressed forward, forcing the first chance when Damien Duff passed Chris Powell with ominous ease and crossed for Frank Lampard to volley wide. Radostin Kishishev twice lost possession and deserved to be punished by Hernan Crespo, who had his first effort saved by Stephan Andersen and drove the second against a post.

Arjen Robben also had a fierce shot parried, but after 20 minutes Charlton settled and by half-time had earned an ovation from the largest Valley crowd since 1977. Jerome Thomas was a confident trickster down the left and Murphy again the creative force, though his set-pieces let him down. The home side's best moments were when Thomas hit the side-netting and then sent Rommedahl through to do the same.

Mourinho, having asked his team to put more pressure on Charlton higher up the pitch, resumed his seat on the hoardings at the start of the second half and was twice close to being brought to his feet. Lampard floated one free-kick to the far post, where William Gallas jabbed it on to a post; Robben touched another one to the England midfielder, whose low shot was deflected off a defender, forcing Andersen into a smart stop. Bent's drive over the bar provided only brief respite and in the 56th minute, Kishishev finally paid the penalty for losing the ball. Essien gratefully received it and, after steadying himself, picked out Crespo for a chip that the striker headed powerfully at goal, Andersen getting a hand to the ball without keeping it out.

Four minutes later Duff did well to hold off Powell in the penalty area and set up Robben for a deft curler into the top corner of the net. To emphasise the unfairness of it all, the champions then brought on £45m worth of substitutes in Didier Drogba and Shaun Wright-Phillips, who forced a good save from Andersen within a couple of minutes of arriving, following a classic Chelsea break out of defence.

Cole had to wait until the last 12 minutes for an appearance, which will hardly be enough to satisfy him. Curbishley tried to stem the tide by introducing Matt Holland, Darren Ambrose and the full-back Jonathan Spector, on loan from Manchester United (who must, with all their injuries, now wish they had kept him). Perry, defying his lack of inches, was closest to getting Charlton back into the game as he rose to head one of Murphy's better corners over the bar.

So, by the final whistle, Chelsea had played for 10 hours without conceding so much as a goal as well as 35 Premiership games without defeat; 15 more and they will beat the Arsenal record which many felt would never be challenged. But that, of course, was B J - before Jose.

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