'Eager' Scolari gives Chelsea a keen edge
Middlesbrough 0 Chelsea 5
John Terry is not everyone's idea of a human chronicler, a commentator who can reduce another's personality into a killer phrase, but when Terry was asked to talk about Luiz Felipe Scolari on Saturday in a what-is-he-like kind of way, Terry plucked straightaway one of those plain but defining adjectives that get overlooked but which convey plenty.
The word Terry used was "eager".
It was as simple and surprising as a Middlesbrough tackle would have been. Eagerness is the least demanded of a professional and of course Scolari would be eager three-and-a-half months into a new, exhilarating job. Yet there was something fresh about Terry's use of it, and of Scolari's approach. The contrast is with what went before at Stamford Bridge.
"In the first two years after Jose Mourinho took over we had a strong mentality where we would go to places and shut up shop to get the three points," Terry said. "But now we are eager to really push on and get that second goal and kill the game.
"Sometimes players are thinking at the back of their mind that 1-0 will be good enough and when a team may be on top [of us] we might try to hold out for a 1-0. But nine times out of 10 we are going to be eager to push on and really kill teams off. That is the difference between then and now."
The attitude was apparent at the Riverside, where Chelsea had lost on two of their previous three visits. Boro, then, were eager to prove themselves but here a young team looked like dazed lambs, Chelsea like hungry hunters.
Salomon Kalou began the scoring on 14 minutes but it was in the four goals in 16 minutes at the start of the second half that Chelsea gorged themselves. Juliano Belletti drilled in a brilliant second from 30 yards, Kalou got his second two minutes later, via a deflection and Kalou then provided a delicious chip for Frank Lampard to nod in.
After the Boro goalkeeper Ross Turnbull, spilled a Nicolas Anelka shot, Florent Malouda, not always known for his fervency, made sure he got to the rebound first to make it five. Eager.
The win kept Chelsea, unbeaten in 29 Premier League games since December, top. After eight games they have eight points more than at same stage of last season. Roma will not be looking forward to Wednesday. Some of Chelsea's missing stars should be back for the Champions League game and for Liverpool on Sunday.
As for Boro, it will be a long, hard week and possibly a long, hard season. When beating Chelsea 2-1 here two years ago, the team contained Yakubu, Viduka, Mendieta, Boateng and Rochemback. On Saturday, Pogatetz, Huth, Hoyte, Tuncay and Arca were also missing. The wage bill has been sliced but so too the experience. "We've gone with young players," manager Gareth Southgate said. "On afternoons like this, that's exposed."
Things were far sunnier for Scolari, but he isn't satisfied. "All the time, we have to improve and learn if we want to get better," he said. "That's life."
Goals: Kalou (14) 0-1; Belletti (51) 0-2; Kalou (53) 0-3; Lampard (63) 0-4; Malouda (67) 0-5.
Middlesbrough (4-4-2): Turnbull; Grounds (J Johnson, 54) Riggott, Wheater, Taylor; A Johnson (Alves, 65) O'Neil, Shawky (Digard, 65) Downing; Mido, Aliadieère. Substitutes not used: Jones (gk), Emnes, Bennett, Walker
Chelsea (4-1-4-1): Cudicini; Bosingwa, Alex, Terry, Bridge (Ferreira, 66); Mikel; Kalou, Belletti, Lampard (Deco, 73) Malouda; Anelka (Sinclair, 78). Substitutes not used: Hilario, Ivanovic, Mancienne, Stoch
Referee: P Dowd (Staffordshire).
Booked: Middlesbrough O'Neil, Alves
Man of the match: Belletti