Hasselbaink quick to take advantage

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The Independent Football

Four goals from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and suddenly Chelsea have gone from standing accused of being shambolic to shining with confidence. It all came about after Coventry's 19-year-old goal-keeper, Chris Kirkland, was sent off in the first half, but had little to do with that refereeing error of judgement.

Four goals from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and suddenly Chelsea have gone from standing accused of being shambolic to shining with confidence. It all came about after Coventry's 19-year-old goal-keeper, Chris Kirkland, was sent off in the first half, but had little to do with that refereeing error of judgement.

Even Coventry's manager, Gordon Strachan, said that although his goalkeeper was blameless of any offence "there was more to the game than that - we started badly and it became one of those days when everything goes wrong: a horrible experience."

Gustavo Poyet returned after injury to play his first game under the new manager, Claudio Ranieri. His absence had been an important factor in Chelsea's previous discomfort, and his reappearance brought about new vitality. Almost immediately he headed just a fraction wide from Dennis Wise's corner. Gianfranco Zola then volleyed to test Kirkland, who clung on at full stretch, and Hasselbaink, belying what was to happen later, twice made little of promising headers. He also shot wide from an unmarked position that emphasised Coventry's problems to come.

In view of the fact that two of their senior goalkeepers were already unavailable, the last thing that Coventry needed was to have Kirkland sent off. Poyet had played a through- pass which Hasselbaink chased a pace or two into the penalty area before Kirkland met him and got a hand to the ball. Hasselbaink fell over the outstretched palm with all-too- obvious eagerness. The referee, following the chase from afar, nevertheless gave the penalty and Hasselbaink gave Chelsea the lead against Coventry's substitute goalkeeper, Alan Miller, who had been taken on loan from Blackburn a few days before.

In view of the lack of evidence for a penalty, it was as well that shortly before half-time an eye-appealing Chelsea move legitimately extended the lead. Wise and Zola swept the ball through midfield and Hasselbaink took possession on the left side before cutting in and curling a shot inside the far post, beating Miller, who should have been bypassed again when Chelsea's substitute striker, Tore Andre Flo, ran at him.

The frustration of their recent past fell away from Chelsea. With immense confidence, Sam dalla Bona released a fine 48th-minute pass diagonally across the penalty area. Zola took the ball on his chest and struck Chelsea's third off the post. Five minutes later it was Poyet who threaded the ball across Coventry's beleaguered defence. Zola attempted a shot, Miller managed to deflect it, but only to Hasselbaink, who comfortably knocked in the fourth and with it his personal hat-trick.

Comfort was welcomed with relief and huge enthusiasm by the Stamford Bridge crowd. Coventry withered and Hasselbaink prospered. When Mustapha Hadji carelessly lost possession, Flo put Hasselbaink into space deep in the penalty area, and there was no chance of his missing close to the far post.

The half-dozen became inevitable. Celestine Babayaro raised an inviting cross which Flo met with a downward header, comprehensively beating poor Miller. At least his counterpart, Ed de Goey, presented Coventry with miserly compensation when juggling on his own line and losing the ball to Cedric Roussel, who tapped in.

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