Chelsea make Mourinho wait for 'the best'

West Bromwich Albion 1 - Chelsea 4
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The Independent Football

Abramovich at West Bromwich had a nice ring to it, although on the 30th anniversary of the Rumble in the Jungle this was not expected to be anything other than a big enough mis-match to make Don King blush.

So Chelsea's super-heavyweight must have despaired during a first-half Jose Mourinho described as "our worst period since I've been manager". A case of rope-a-dope, perhaps? Big dopes on the ropes more like.

But then, as ever, the deadly combination of class and confidence came through. The by-products of Siberian oil simply swamped the sweat of Black Country toil, and order was resumed in what Frank Burrows, the West Brom caretaker, called "the hardest division of all".

Indeed, it was a division that the Chelsea fans thought they had ascended to the very summit of as news filtered through of Southampton's lead at Highbury. And at least they had time for a few choruses of "We are top of the league" before the name of Van Persie cackled through their radios to spoil the party. It didn't stay spoiled for long, that's for sure, as the realisation hit home that in eight short days Chelsea had made up a five-point deficit that most had claimed would only be widened by those great gulf-excavators at Highbury.

"That's English football for you," Mourinho said. "In Portugal when we were five or six points clear I knew the championship was finished because it was impossible we would lose the points. Here anybody can beat anybody."

Nevertheless, despite such honesty, Mourinho was bearing the smirk of the vindicated as he repeated his claim that Chelsea are the finest team in the country, albeit in the margins of the formbook. "Statistically we are the best. In our 15 games so far this season we have 12 wins, two draws and one defeat. Arsenal have 10 wins, four draws and one defeat. But I have said before that Arsenal were playing better than us at the beginning of the season."

Not that he would necessarily make such a concession now because in the last two League games Chelsea have clicked into a fluency of style that would draw purrs in N5. It is a mightily profitable one to boot as Mourinho's beloved statistics will testify. It took them nine games to score eight goals and just two more to score the next eight and when this is married up alongside a goals-against column that reads a miserly three, it all adds up to undeniable title-winning form.

Burrows is certainly impressed, especially by a manager who may be from a different generation to this grand old servant to football but who is similarly obsessed. "That young man has done a terrific job," he said. "He has put together a very good team in a very short time, and that's not easy no matter how much money you've got. He's very effective. He gets results and I'm very impressed."

The 60-year-old does not know how long his own tenure will last, although he must have had a whiff of something permanent as his side tore into Chelsea in a first half they dominated from whistle to whistle. Well, not quite whistle to whistle, William Gallas crushing their spirit just as Barry Knight was about to put lip to plastic with a header that was teed up by John Terry.

It was more than Chelsea deserved although Mourinho went in for some harsh justice of his own in the interval hauling off Wayne Bridge and Joe Cole, the latter for Arjen Robben, who, for the second week running, put in a performance from the bench that was anything but a cameo.

Perhaps it is time for Mourinho to call in the drug-testers again because what this 20-year-old has cannot be natural. Robben so thoroughly confused the West Brom defence that they might just have missed Eidur Gudjohnsen heading home Damien Duff's cross for the second. They doubtless came to their senses when Zoltan Gera struck from 25 yards to reignite the contest but were soon out on their feet again as Duff accepted Frank Lampard's invitation to make it three. It was only left for Lampard to deliver the knock-out blow with his first goal from open play for Chelsea this season. As Burrows said: "Cruel, but fair."

Goals: Gallas (45) 0-1; Gudjohnsen (51) 0-2; Gera (56) 1-2; Duff (59) 1-3; Lampard (81) 1-4.

West Bromwich Albion (4-4-2): Hoult; Scimeca, Gaardsoe, Moore, Robinson; Gera, Johnson, Clement (Koumas, 64), Greening (Dyer, 80); Earnshaw (Dobie, 56), Kanu. Substitutes not used: Haas, Kuszczak (gk).

Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ferreira, Terry, Gallas, Bridge (Carvalho, 46); Smertin, Makelele, Lampard (Tiago, 83); Cole (Robben, 46), Gudjohnsen, Duff. Substitutes not used: Kezman, Cudicini (gk).

Referee: B Knight (Kent).

Booked: West Bromwich: Robinson.

Man of the match: Lampard.

Attendance: 26,031.