It bore no relevance whatever to Bolton or Blackburn in November, but the signs were promising as Jose Mourinho's new Chelsea charges eased past the champions of Scotland in a heatwave that has taken even the locals by surprise. Alexei Smertin scored his first goal for the club before an equaliser by Craig Beattie. But in the second half Celtic's defence fell apart after John Robertson, who is in charge while Martin O'Neill stays at home because of his wife's illness, changed the system to play with three at the back.
A crowd of 30,504 turned out in the stadium where more than twice that number sell out the ground for every game of what the Americans call "football", with a good representation of shirts from both clubs, some of which - like the blue ones with "Hasselbaink" on the back - now need replacing. Mateja Kezman, the Serbian signed from PSV Eindhoven, might sell a few after underlining his qualities as a natural finisher by scoring twice during his 45 minutes as a substitute. Arjen Robben also did well and Smertin was outstanding in midfield.
With the eight-hour time difference as well as the heat taking a while to adjust to, Mourinho admitted that he and some of the squad had been sleepless in Seattle and walking the streets at six in the morning. He made full use of seven substitutes, which still left four unlucky players - Glen Johnson, Robert Huth, Géremi and Smertin - having to play the full 90 minutes.
The new manager had told his players they would need to "rest with the ball" to conserve energy, an approach that he will encourage even on cooler days as an antidote to the new English disease of giving possession away. Such an attitude does not come naturally to Premiership performers and the tempo of the game was surprisingly high.
In the first half Joe Cole played in his favourite position just behind the strikers, to his usual mixed effect - some delicious touches, but too often a failure to deliver the simple pass.
With Damien Duff's troublesome shoulder keeping him out of action and Robben not appearing until later, Cole's role left something of a void on the left, which the typically hard-working Scott Parker was obliged to fill.
Smertin, who had been signed from Bordeaux and immediately loaned to Portsmouth for last season, laid his claim to a midfield place with a composed performance in the centre of midfield and a spectacular goal in the 16th minute. Supplied by Adrian Mutu 25 yards out, he stepped inside a challenge and unleashed a thrilling drive into the top corner of Magnus Hedman's net.
Celtic, playing a more direct game with Chris Sutton as their target man in the first half, had almost profited early on from an embarrassing lapse by Carlo Cudicini, who is now under serious pressure for his place by the Czech Republic's goalkeeper Petr Cech. John Terry left a long diagonal cross from the impressive midfielder Ross Wallace, but Cudicini had advanced too far to punch it, and Beattie's back-header drifted past a post.
The defence was badly exposed too for the equalising goal in the 27th minute. Terry appeared to slip, allowing Sutton to play in Beattie for a shot that Cudicini touched but could not keep out.
Mutu, otherwise disappointing, almost laid on a second goal with a corner shortly before the interval from which Huth's header was scraped off the line by Wallace. The Romanian striker then became one of six Chelsea players spared a further session in the sun. Robben and Kezman were the best of the replacements as Celtic's revamped defence was exposed twice in nine minutes.
In the 50th minute Robben slipped between two hooped shirts to set up Gudjohnsen for a confident drive from 15 yards and then Robben's neat pass and Gudjohnsen's touch gave Kezman a second goal in his two games for the club.
He had a third before the finish, with another deft finish. In between times, Beattie headed in from Bobby Petta's corner but Celtic had been undermined by a back-line that had to be reinforced, belatedly, by Sutton moving back. They will need to be tighter to achieve a better outcome against Liverpool on the east coast tomorrow.
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