Scolari praises spirit of players as they put on five-star show to hammer Middlesbrough.
Kalou leads way in Chelsea rout
MIDDLESBROUGH // This ground has been something of a graveyard for Chelsea in recent seasons with the Blues suffering defeats in 2005-06 and 2006-07 under none other than Jose Mourinho, but it was pitiful Middlesbrough who were dead and buried in little more than an hour here today.
Salomon Kalou led Luiz Felipe Scolari's side on a rampage at the Riverside to ensure they remain top of the Premier League. Kalou struck in only the 14th minute and again in the 53rd, two minutes after Juliano Belletti's belting 30-yard effort. It became embarrassingly easy for the visitors as Frank Lampard glanced in Kalou's cross in the 63rd minute and Florent Malouda profited from the rebound after goalkeeper Ross Turnbull spilled Nicolas Anelka's shot on to a post four minutes later.
Anelka then had one disallowed for offside as Scolari maintained his unbeaten record as Chelsea manager and the Blues extended their undefeated league run to 29 matches stretching back to last season. Scolari lavished praise on his side, but warned that the title race was a marathon, not a sprint. The Brazilian coach said: "We have a long way to go to win the Premier League. "But we have worked very hard and all our players know what is involved.
"We showed everyone we have 23 players that we can believe in. They have a fantastic spirit and they want to play every game even if they are injured. "It was a good performance, but I think we have played many games very well. "If we win every game 1-0, I am a champion, but we have to understand other teams have quality and if we make a mistake, they will kill us.'' Middlesbrough may have scented Blue blood again due to Chelsea's depleted resources, but they never got a sniff.
Seven of Chelsea's pivotal first-team figures - Petr Cech, Ashley Cole, Joe Cole, Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Ballack, Didier Drogba and Michael Essien - were ruled out through injury, but captain John Terry typified the character to which Scolari referred by returning after missing England's World Cup qualifiers against Kazakhstan and Belarus with a back problem. Middlesbrough have injury issues of their own and it was a reshaped defence, with youngster Jonathan Grounds - normally a left-back - switching to the right in place of the absent Justin Hoyte, and Chris Riggott continuing to deputise for former Chelsea centre-back Robert Huth.
And Boro looked uncertain at the back as the visitors seized the lead. Belletti swept the ball out to Wayne Bridge and his cross was met by a weak attempted clearing header by David Wheater. Ex-Barcelona man Belletti then re-emerged to see his shot blocked before the ball broke to Kalou, who was left with a simple finish. After the interval, Belletti's blistering drive was quickly followed by Kalou's fourth goal of the season when his effort struck Wheater to take a big deflection.
Middlesborough manager Gareth Southgate conceded: "It's a humiliation and hard to take. "It's a humbling experience for us. I don't think they had to be at their best, but they annihilated us. They are in a different league to us.'' @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org