When Roy Keane first played against Frank Lampard he was not impressed. "He had a hell of a lot of work to do," the now-Sunderland manager recalled on Saturday night of Lampard's early days at West Ham. "Back then he was learning his trade and maybe carrying too much weight – not that he was fat. I would have said then, 'I'm not his biggest fan'."
Keane is a fan now, delivering a glowing verdict after Lampard took advantage of Sunderland's porous defence to notch his 100th league goal on Saturday. "Lampard's all-round game has improved unbelievably in the last few years, he's a top midfielder now," said a man who was one of the finest midfielders around.
"I don't think he is the most naturally gifted player in the world," added Keane. "He's one of those players who has had to work at his game but from what I hear he is a good one to practise. Some players who you hear a lot about when they are young lose that hunger. But he seems as hungry as ever. He plays a lot of games, he's a fit lad who looks after his body, and his goals record is unbelievable. When you look at him and Steven Gerrard, My God, Fabio Capello is a lucky man."
It was another Chelsea player, however, who walked away with the match ball. Nicolas Anelka scored one of the ugliest hat-tricks imaginable. He was offside for the first, his greed jeopardising what would have been a legitimate goal by Alex. The second was a tap-in from Florent Malouda's pass. The third should have been saved by Martin Fulop.
Nevertheless the knack of being in the right place at the right time is a useful one for a striker and Anelka said he was being encouraged by Luiz Felipe Scolari to be patient, to be in the goal area when the ball comes in, and not to go chasing it. "I like to play, to touch the ball a lot so its difficult for me to be patient but I am trying and its working," he said. "This was my first hat-trick for Chelsea and I'm very happy."
Scolari said Anelka would lead the attack against Roma in tomorrow's Champions League tie in the Italian capital as he "was in the best condition". But when Didier Drogba is fully fit he is likely to be restored as centre-forward as the limitations of having Anelka – who lacks Drogba's power and presence – in the role were exposed in Liverpool's victory here. Liverpool blew the advantage they gained in losing to Spurs which could prove costly. Chelsea are not going to lose often.
"The Liverpool game was one game," said Anelka. "That sometimes happens but if people think they can come here and win because we lost one game at home ... I don't think so."
Certainly Sunderland were never likely to follow in Liverpool's footsteps. As one reporter who had travelled south with the team noted, the derby win over Newcastle "seems a lot longer than two weeks ago".
Goals: Alex (27) 1-0; Anelka (30) 2-0; Anelka (45) 3-0; Lampard (51) 4-0; Anelka (53) 5-0.
Chelsea (4-1-2-2-1): Cech; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, A Cole (Bridge, 36); Mikel; Lampard, Deco; J Cole (Drogba, 63), Malouda; Anelka (Mineiro, 74). Substitutes not used: Hilario (gk), Ivanovic, Kalou, Belletti.
Sunderland (4-4-2): Fulop; Chimbonda, Nosworthy, Ferdinand, McCartney; Malbranque (Henderson, h-t), Whitehead, Tainio, Richardson; Jones (Cissé, 57), Waghorn (Diouf, h-t). Substitutes not used: Colgan (gk), Bardsley, Reid, Meyler.
Referee: M Atkinson (West Yorkshire).
Booked: Sunderland Tainio.
Man of the match: J Cole.
Attendance: 41,693.Reuse content