Malouda 6,90, Drogba 45+1,55,68, Lampard 63
WEST BROM 0
It was a case of a job well done for the reigning Premier League champions as Chelsea brushed aside West Bromwich Albion in emphatic style.
The six goal haul perhaps flattered the Blues who at times looked as if they would fail to capitalise on an early Florent Malouda breakthrough, with Carlo Ancelotti’s men still looking some way short of peak match fitness. Roberto Di Matteo received a warm welcome on his return to Stamford Bridge, but couldn’t prevent Chelsea from securing the biggest opening day victory in Premier League history.
Usually so well drilled in their 4-1-2-3 formation, the home side struggled in the opening exchanges, Didier Drogba in particular having a game of two very different halves. Dejected and anonymous in the first 44 minutes, the Ivorian sneaked a quick free-kick past Scott Carson right on half-time and the Golden Boot winner’s opening goal of the season set the foundation for a thumping win. Drogba went on to complete his hat-trick with a strike from close-range and a deflected effort before making way with Frank Lampard to give Yossi Benayoun his Chelsea bow. The Israel captain generally looked comfortable, but with the game already won, he will have to wait another week to stamp his mark on the champions.
Prior to the second goal, Ancelotti would have had greater reason for concern. The visitors gave as good as they got against the physical nature of Chelsea’s midfield and though they carved out no genuine goal-scoring opportunities, were given far too much possession and above all were not hassled enough by supposed anchor man John Obi Mikel. The Nigerian came into his own in the final quarter of an hour, but his shocking lack of distribution, inability to make a tackle and general clumsiness make him Chelsea’s biggest liability.
Chelsea’s positional rotation appeared to create more confusion amongst the Blue ranks then it did cause havoc to the Albion rearguard. With the three pronged attack of Drogba, Anelka and Malouda constantly interchanging, the latter would always find himself at the point of attack, whilst Drogba – his characteristics surely suited to use as a target-man – found himself hugging the touchline, struggling to interlink with his teammates. A glaring Achilles heel for Chelsea was how incredibly exposed and isolated Paulo Ferreira and Ashley Cole became at times. With Michael Essien, Lampard, Anelka and Malouda bombing forward, the pair of full-backs were frequently left one-on-one with their opposite numbers bearing down on them. Against a higher quality of opposition, they will be punished.
The Blues could have asked for no more on the opening day of what will surely be a gruelling Premier League campaign and given their torrid pre-season form, Ancelotti will be pleased but far from delighted with the first performance.
19 Ferreira – 26 Terry – 33 Alex – 3 Cole
5 Essien – 12 Mikel – 8 Lampard
39 Anelka – 11 Drogba – 15 Malouda
60 – 2 Ivanovic on for 19 Ferreira
64 – 10 Benayoun on for 8 Lampard
70 – 21 Kalou on for 11 Drogba