Blackburn Rovers 3 Chelsea 0
It was the kind of day you always expected there would be with Chelsea this season, the kind when someone new to watching them might cast his eye across the field and say: "OK, I know the guy with the crazy hair. He's good. But how did he end up with this lot?"
Ruud Gullit stood dreadlocked head and shoulders above the rest of Glenn Hoddle's side, both as first-half sweeper and also when he later advanced into midfield to prompt their only worthwhile attacks. Touch, vision, balance and strength - all his qualities of excellence are still intact but, on current evidence, shared with none of his Chelsea colleagues.
Hoddle sought answers to several questions during a lengthy dressing- room inquest, but emerged not much wiser. "It's a bit mystifying sometimes," he said. "The standard we played to today is not the standard I'm looking for at the club. There has not been a consistent run of games when I've been happy. We've been good for two games and bad for two, and until we achieve consistency the results will not come for us."
Demolished by Manchester United a week earlier, Chelsea were no less outplayed by Blackburn, who by contrast bear the hallmarks of a team whose targets are in reach. Ray Harford's aim from the outset has been to broaden the scope of the champions' style, and they can be accused no longer of having only one dimension. Alan Shearer remains their most potent weapon, but is used much more selectively now. As a tactic, the hopeful long punt Kenny Dalglish appeared to favour has all but been eliminated, replaced by approach play that is much more patient, much more sophisticated.
The catalyst has been the arrival of Lars Bohinen, who might not be a colossus in Gullit's image, but who, none the less, is good enough to be the hub of Blackburn's midfield. Triangles proliferated from one touchline to the other as Bohinen linked with Tim Sherwood and David Batty, and Chelsea, stretched by the width in Blackburn's three-man attack, were given the runaround. It does not augur well for the bench-bound Chris Sutton, who is suddenly pounds 5m worth of odd man out.
The midfield trio set up all the goals; Batty supplying Sherwood for the mishit 25-yard opener, Sherwood releasing Shearer through a yawning chasm for the second, Shearer knocking down Bohinen's cross for Mike Newell to drill home the third. And Bohinen might have had a couple himself, watching Dmitri Kharine tip a splendid volley around a post and then narrowly missing after a smart one-two with Newell.
When Gullit moved up and Mark Stein replaced Paul Furlong Chelsea at least managed a few shots on goal, something they had barely done once during a wholly one-sided first half. By then, however, they were 3-0 down and without hope.
Goals: Sherwood (39) 1-0; Shearer (49) 2-0; Newell (57) 3-0.
Blackburn Rovers (4-3-3): Flowers; Berg, Pearce, Hendry, Kenna; Sherwood, Bohinen, Batty; Ripley, Shearer, Newell. Substitutes not used: Sutton, Warhurst, Mimms (gk).
Chelsea (1-4-3-2); Kharine; Gullit; Burley, Sinclair (Lee, 70), Johnson, Myers; Rocastle, Newton, Wise; Hughes, Furlong (Stein, 59). Substitute not used: Hitchcock (gk).
Referee: P Durkin (Portland).