Chelsea's home guard supply ammunition for Gudjohnsen

Chelsea 4 - Blackburn Rovers 0
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The Independent Football

Mark Hughes, a former Chelsea hero, endured a wretched return to west London yesterday, his new club producing a performance every bit as limply ineffective as Wales had done for him against England earlier this month. Unlike that occasion, the scoreline here reflected the gulf between the teams, as Jose Mourinho's newly Anglicised side finally scored the goals they have been threatening for some time. Eidur Gudjohnsen claimed the first two of them in the space of two minutes to open up the game, completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot before Damien Duff reluctantly rubbed it in against his old club.

Mark Hughes, a former Chelsea hero, endured a wretched return to west London yesterday, his new club producing a performance every bit as limply ineffective as Wales had done for him against England earlier this month. Unlike that occasion, the scoreline here reflected the gulf between the teams, as Jose Mourinho's newly Anglicised side finally scored the goals they have been threatening for some time. Eidur Gudjohnsen claimed the first two of them in the space of two minutes to open up the game, completing his hat-trick from the penalty spot before Damien Duff reluctantly rubbed it in against his old club.

Mourinho had decided it was time to freshen up the side after the dull midweek tie against CSKA Moscow, bringing a genuine English flavour by adding Glen Johnson and Scott Parker for the first time this season. With Joe Cole, John Terry, Wayne Bridge and Frank Lampard, that made six home players, five of them Londoners. All played their part; the midfield triumvirate of Cole - who operated just behind Gudjohnsen - Lampard and Parker controlled much of the build-up; Johnson got forward from right-back more threateningly than Paulo Ferreira ever does, while Terry and Bridge were solid against an admittedly lightweight attack.

The wild Rovers, outplayed all over the pitch, have won only one game this season - including a League Cup tie against Bournemouth - and will be bottom of the table by tea-time today if Southampton take at least a point from their home game with Birmingham. After this second successive 4-0 defeat, Hughes said: "The goals-against column tells the story. We need to be more resolute defensively. I understood it was a difficult job but the last two results have hurt us." The verbal squabbling between Michael Gray and Brett Emerton just before the finish suggested that morale is as low as confidence.

All this on what Blackburn had hitherto regarded as their favourite ground. In the hi-tech world of modern football, there would seem to be little place for such unscientific factors as hoodoos, yet they arrived with an extraordinary enough record at Stamford Bridge to have the home supporters, if not the team, feeling a touch of apprehension until the breakthrough was made. In 10 previous Premiership visits, they had recorded five victories and five draws, remaining unbeaten since the almost forgotten days of a First Division play-off in 1988.

But all good things must come to an end, which is hastened with performances as feeble as this. Just as the visitors were thinking they might survive until half-time, Parker supplied Cole for a deft lob over the last defender, Gudjohnsen side-footing a volley past Brad Friedel. His second strike two minutes later, from the same inside-right position, was much firmer, driven across the goalkeeper after taking Lampard's long diagonal pass on his chest.

Earlier there had been little more than a series of threatening crosses, mostly from the right-hand side, while at the other end Youri Djorkaeff's occasional touches came to nothing. The only moment to excite Blackburn's rain-sodden supporters was a shout for a penalty when Paul Dickov went down challenging for a corner-kick played low into the area.

There was less argument about Graham Poll's decision five minutes into the second half, when Gudjohnsen was clearly tripped by Craig Short as he moved clear on to Cole's little flick. The Icelander's ice-cool spot-kick left no room for debate either, though there was some discussion about whether Short should have been sent off. Referees increasingly seem to be taking the compassionate view that a penalty is punishment enough. "Boring, boring Chelsea" was now the home crowd's ironic chant. "Have you won the Premier League?" was the best the visiting support could manage. Not yet.

Hughes tried to inject some physical presence into his attack by replacing Dickov and Djorkaeff by the more powerful Jay Bothroyd and Jon Stead, but Steven Reid's drive after 66 minutes, comfortably fielded by Petr Cech, was their first shot of any note. Mourinho's substitutions gave Alexei Smertin, Cole and Gudjohnsen a rest, and Tiago, Mateja Kezman and Arjen Robben a run - the latter for the first time in the Premiership. The exciting Dutchman added another dimension, almost scoring within a few minutes of coming on. Duff, whose place he threatens, then had a shot deflected wide, collected the subsequent corner and drove it fiercely past his old colleague Friedel for the fourth goal.

Even Kezman fancied his chances against this defence and he almost opened his account at last with 10 minutes to play, turning Robben's pass against the bar. Friedel foiled him again before the end, but, that apart, it was a perfect day for Mourinho, who said: "Now we can look at the Manchester United-Arsenal game with a smile because every outcome has a positive side."

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