Kalou serves perfect starter but Chelsea now face sterner tests
Chelsea 4 Blackpool 0
Monday 20 September 2010
The suggestion put to the Chelsea manager, Carlos Ancelotti, after this easy victory was that his team might be under-cooked ahead of next week's trip to Manchester City, a team that he has been tipping as potential title rivals all summer.
"Under-cooked? I don't understand under-cooked." Ancelotti replied, for although his English is improving, this phrase tested his vocabulary beyond its limits. For a man whose recent autobiography is packed with as many references to eating as to football, it was unfortunate that he should be tripped up by a culinary term.
After all, his team have provided nothing but the finest gourmet football so far this season, with 15 points from a possible 15 that gives them a four-point lead over Arsenal, with the added cushion of a 10-goal advantage in goal difference.
Yet there is no escaping the suspicion that as his free-flowing team have yet to face anything resembling a competitive game this season they remain an unknown quantity. Blackpool gave Chelsea a decent game; sadly for the visitors by then Chelsea were 4-0 up.
Chelsea took their foot off the gas – with half an eye on the forthcoming challenges they face against Manchester City next weekend, followed by the visit of Arsenal in a fortnight's time – but Ancelotti promised they will be up to the tasks ahead. Asked if his team had been handed an easy start to the season, the Italian replied: "It could be, it could be. But every game could be easy afterwards. If you don't play well, maybe it looks like a difficult game. We didn't play the top teams but we have played very well. Now it's important to have confidence in our football. We have to maintain this quality against the top teams like Manchester City. It's an important test not just for us, but also for them."
The question remains whether Chelsea are able to play their magnificent, high-tempo passing game against better teams than Blackpool. If they are, then heaven help the rest of the Premier League as this Chelsea team will take some stopping.
Florent Malouda, who scored twice in the first half to put Chelsea comfortably ahead, promised the champions will continue the style at City. He said: "People talk about Manchester City because they don't give us the credit for what we have done up to now. We know what we have done last season against the big teams. We can do it. It's not a problem for us."
Chelsea were without their two greatest stalwarts, John Terry and Frank Lampard. Rarely in the past decade have Chelsea been without both of their key players, Terry lost to a rib injury and Lampard still recovering from hernia surgery. Their absence was barely noticed however as the game was over before it had barely begun. Blackpool came with the intention of keeping things tight but went 1-0 down after 66 seconds when they failed to mark properly at a corner. Branislav Ivanovic flicked on Didier Drogba's corner at the near post and Salomon Kalou finished from a couple of yards.
Malouda added a second shortly afterwards, with a one-touch strike to meet Drogba's low cross from the right. The number-crunchers came up with the stat that this was Chelsea's 100th goal in all competitions in 2010.
Drogba, who is playing with a smile on his face these days after six seasons at Chelsea when his default mode has been a moaning scowl, scored the third with a shot that was deflected past Blackpool's goalkeeper Matthew Gilks after Ashley Cole had popped up on the left wing, much to the delight of Ancelotti who was on his feet applauding.
When Kalou crossed for Malouda to score emphatically for Chelsea's fourth in the 41st minute, a cricket score seemed on the cards. But Chelsea eased off and Blackpool came out fighting after the interval, and the visitors played so well in the second 45 minutes they were unfortunate not to score.
Marlon Harewood fired into the side-netting, sparking frenzied celebrations among the travelling Tangerine Army who thought it had gone in, and when DJ Campbell managed to beat Petr Cech from a tight angle, Ivanovic was on hand to clear off the line. At the other end, Chelsea continued to make chances but Drogba seemed more interested in setting up the goal for Malouda that would have given his mate a hat-trick, and they were squandered.
Blackpool manager Ian Holloway admitted responsibility for the defeat, saying he had got his tactics wrong. "I thought we could try to contain them, but after they scored in the second minute that went out the window," he said. "I put my hand up, my tactics didn't work. I looked at it beforehand and though 'Blow me down, we are in trouble'. But we looked better when we played the way we play in the second half, with four strikers."
Chelsea (4-3-3): Cech; Ferreira, Alex (Bruma 71), Ivanovic, Cole; Essien, Mikel (Benayoun 78), Ramires (Zhirkov 75); Kalou, Drogba, Malouda. Substitutes not used Turnbull (gk), Kakuta, Sturridge, Anelka.
Blackpool (4-3-2-1): Gilks; Eardley (Taylor-Fletcher h-t), Keinan, Evatt, Crainey; Vaughan, Baptiste, Adam; Grandin (Harewood 61), Varney (Ormerod, 61); Campbell. Substitutes not used Halstead (gk), Southern, Cathcart, Carney.
Booked Eardley, Vaughan
Man of the match Essien
Possession Chelsea 59% Blackpool 41%.
Shots on target Chelsea 15, Blackpool 4.
Referee M Clattenburg (Tyne & Wear). Att 41,761
Match rating 8/10.
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