Robben the Blue-eyed boy

Fulham 1 - Chelsea 4
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The Independent Football

The rampant Chelsea lion on the newly designed club emblem is, according to Jose Mourinho, "arrogant, aggressive and proud". There was much to enthuse about all those qualities in the visitors' performance, with the Dutchman Arjen Robben scoring his fourth goal in as many games and again demonstrating his outstanding pace and vision, as the Blues showed that there may be something in the manager's prediction that his team could win the championship with two weeks to spare.

The rampant Chelsea lion on the newly designed club emblem is, according to Jose Mourinho, "arrogant, aggressive and proud". There was much to enthuse about all those qualities in the visitors' performance, with the Dutchman Arjen Robben scoring his fourth goal in as many games and again demonstrating his outstanding pace and vision, as the Blues showed that there may be something in the manager's prediction that his team could win the championship with two weeks to spare.

Although Fulham had the temerity after the break to equalise Frank Lampard's first-half opener, all Chris Coleman's side achieved was to provoke the beast within Mourinho's team. Chelsea responded with a venom that could only be appreciated, if not by the home faithful, then at least by Fulham's manager.

As for possessing two few knives in their attacking drawer, that constant jibe at the start of the season, this was the third occasion in four Premiership games that Chelsea had scored four. Unlike Arsenal they keep them out, too. At the start, Chelsea's miserly rearguard had yielded a mere three goals. Mourinho regarded the defences involved in the earlier nine-goal scoreline at White Hart Lane with disdain. "I didn't see the game, but you can say the defenders were a disgrace. That is not a proper football score. It is an ice hockey result," he sneered. "We have games of three against three in training, and when it gets to 5-4, I send them to the dressing room and say 'you are not playing well enough'."

There could be no accusation of that here, where Chelsea were concerned. Apart from Fulham's equaliser, lashed home on the volley by the Senegalese midfielder Papa Bouba Diop, the hosts' threat was largely superficial. Only Steed Malbranque had the finesse to trouble the visitors.

It gives further credence to Mourinho's belief that Chelsea can sustain this sequence. "You can call me what you want, but I don't think I'm arrogant or vain," he said. "It is confidence because I have belief in my players. I said to them before the game that the country was waiting to see whether we could cope with the pressure of being League leaders. It was important that we answered that."

It was some response, even though, as Mourinho conceded, he was able to make eight changes to the team which started against Newcastle in Wednesday's League Cup tie. Fulham were unchanged from the side that defeated Nottingham Forest the same night.

Nevertheless, even the vanquished Fulham manager appeared overawed by the stature of his club's west London neighbours. "We were played off the park by a class team. It's as simple as that," said Coleman. "On that performance, they're favourites for the title. I'd say, yes, they are better than Arsenal."

The Welshman was particularly smitten by the Blues' 20-year-old Dutch winger, who scored one goal and fashioned another. "I don't want to sound like a Chelsea fan, but Robben was breathtaking," he insisted. "Probably the best player I've seen this season."

Mourinho was asked whose decision it had actually been to acquire the player. The deal was finalised before the manager was installed. He shrugged off his ignorance on the matter. "I'd say, if it was [Claudio] Ranieri, then 'congratulations and thanks a lot'. If it was Peter Kenyon [the chief executive] or Roman Abramovich [the owner], I'd say 'why are you not coaching?' "

Mourinho's team bore little resemblance to the Chelsea of the early season. But then the Blues did not have Robben, who should perhaps be elevated to the status of Batman. There were times when he ran Moritz Volz and Zat Knight to distraction. Both attempted to curtail his thrusts down the left flank, but were too often left embarrassed. Frustratingly for Chelsea, there was a lack of reward, though. One interchange with Claude Makelele ended with Alexei Smertin topping his shot wide. Seconds later, Eidur Gudjohnsen was the culprit when presented with an open invitation.

It required a contested free-kick just after the half-hour for Chelsea finally to score the goal their open play merited. Gudjohnsen touched the ball to Damien Duff, the Irishman played it back and Lampard unleashed his third goal of the season from 25 yards with goalkeeper Mark Crossley helpless to intervene.

Lampard claimed a penalty late in the half after being felled by the challenge of Volz. Referee Uriah Rennie's response was a caution for the outraged England midfielder. Rather bizarrely, Ron "Chopper" Harris was presented to the crowd at half-time. The former Chelsea stalwart, who was inevitably greeted by a hostile response, would have appreciated the formidable back line that Chelsea have assembled.

Diop's savagely struck equaliser, hit from 30 yards out, soon after the interval merely served to galvanise the Blues. Within two minutes, Robben eluded desperate challenges in the home area before scoring a goal which re-established a true reflection of Chelsea's dominance.

They weren't done yet. A Lampard free-kick swept right through the home cordon, and William Gallas stooped at the far post to deliver the coup de grâce. Malbranque was denied by goalkeeper Petr Cech before the Chelsea substitute Tiago linked beautifully with Robben, who backheeled to provide the opening for the Portuguese midfielder to deliver a devilish finish from an angle.

The lion continues to roar, and, in this mood, no team is safe from its fury.

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