Mourinho's new boys lead way as Chelsea take pretty route to top

Crystal Palace 0 - Chelsea 2
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The Independent Football

Winning ugly may have been the theme of Chelsea's first two Premiership matches (although whisper that claim quietly around Jose Mourinho) but last night they found a new signature that was far more in keeping with notions of the beautiful game.

Winning ugly may have been the theme of Chelsea's first two Premiership matches (although whisper that claim quietly around Jose Mourinho) but last night they found a new signature that was far more in keeping with notions of the beautiful game.

Mourinho has been trying to re-educate his players - and by extension the public - as to the kind of football he wants to play. At times that may be less than riveting (hence the "1-0 to the Chelsea" jibes). Here it proved more expansive with an attractive, confidently constructed victory against a fiercely competitive but limited Crystal Palace.

The result was all the sweeter for Mourinho in that it was provided by goals from two of his signings, Didier Drogba and Tiago Mendes - their first for Chelsea - while Joe Cole clearly had his best game since moving to the club.

The win means that Chelsea have nine points from their opening three fixtures - the first time that has happened since 1994 - and are yet to concede a goal. For all Arsenal's swagger, there is a determined opponent on their coat-tails.

Palace fans could tell Chelsea were in town. After all, the usual pre-match announcement for a badly parked car called for a Porsche owner to return to his vehicle.

Following the well-heeled theme, Mourinho polished his diamond again, this time allowing Joe Cole, flushed with his goal against Birmingham City, the position he craves behind the two main strikers.

It gave him freedom. The virtue of that almost received its reward on 20 minutes when Cole was found, stealing into space, by Mateja Kezman. His shot was parried. Even earlier, however, it was Palace who should have taken the lead as Danny Granville screwed wide a free header from a corner.

Mourinho made five changes from the dirge at St Andrew's with full debuts for two summer signings - Tiago Mendes and Kezman. Intriguingly there was still no place - not even on the substitutes' bench - for Damien Duff and he sat suited and booted in the stand along with Alexei Smertin.

The Palace manager, Iain Dowie, could only wince at such resources. Or, more likely, use it as a psychological tool. After all, as he said in his programme notes, this was a fixture he "could not wait" to tackle. And tackle is exactly what his players did.

Didier Drogba, initially, seemed unnerved but on 28 minutes he rose unmolested to head Celestine Babayaro's cross easily into the net. His marker, Tony Popovic, was left rooted.

Drogba was one of seven Chelsea arrivals this summer which, interestingly, is one fewer than at Palace even if the chequebook stubs at Stamford Bridge have rather more noughts on them. Despite the volume of Dowie's business, and he handed a debut to the £2m Ecuadorian striker Ivan Kaviedes, his side lack quality.

The goal settled Chelsea into an attacking rhythm. Cole was its conductor. He has a big role to play this season. The only question is whether he can fill it.

After the break, the evidence continued to encourage with Cole using the left flank as an attacking base. It was a bold formation, especially away from home, but any concern would have evaporated had Chelsea been more clinical.

Cole, in particular, was profligate - three times his shots cannoned into defenders - and when William Gallas misjudged a long ball, Andy Johnson almost profited. However, the Palace striker also snatched at the opportunity and his shot span wide.

Which is exactly what Tiago did not do minutes later. He collected the ball on the corner of the area, shifted his body to find space beyond Granville and struck a low right-foot shot into the corner. It was an excellent finish and killed of Palace's challenge.

Crystal Palace (4-4-2): Speroni; Boyce, Hudson, Popovic, Granville; Routledge, Riihilahti, Hall, Kolkka; Johnson, Kaviedes (Hughes, 68). Substitutes not used: Kiraly (gk), Derry, Freedman, Borrowdale.

Chelsea (4-1-2-1-2): Cech; Ferreira, Gallas, Terry, Babayaro; Makelele; Tiago, Lampard; Cole (Géremi, 77); Drogba (Gudjohnsen, 76), Kezman (Mutu, 70). Substitutes not used: Cudicini (gk), Carvalho.

Referee: C Foy (Merseyside).

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