Wigan hit for six by rampant Chelsea
Wigan 0 Chelsea 6: On his arrival at Liverpool, Joe Cole remarked that the most important games were not the ones you wanted to win, such as those against Manchester City or Arsenal, but those you had to win. "Beat the bottom 10 teams home and away, that's 60 points and you're flying."
There are strong undertones of Jose Mourinho in that philosophy and it has been maintained by Carlo Ancelotti, although Mourinho's 1-0 victories now come with rather more garnish. Chelsea's last five League games have been won by a collective margin of 29-0.
Fourteen of those goals have come in two matches against Wigan. However, if this scoreline had echoes of the 8-0 rampage with which Chelsea sealed the championship at Stamford Bridge, Wigan – ludicrous as it may sound about a team that conceded six at home – were the better side for half an hour before disintegrating into the same defensive naivety that unhinged them against Blackpool. Next Saturday sees them at Tottenham, where they lost 9-1 last season, and already there must be fears for their future.
Not even at the helm of the Milan sides that won him two European Cups has Ancelotti started a season with two 6-0 victories and he joked this was: "Not real football but PlayStation". He added: "The first half was a tough game but maybe Wigan expended too much energy because it became easier for us. We counterattacked fantastically and, when we have space, we are difficult to stop. We have the quality and the power to win the title this season."
Quality and power were adjectives that sit very well with Didier Drogba's display. It says something for both sides that with the champions 3-0 up and Wigan's afternoon hopelessly lost, they each continued to attack. However, Chelsea's forwards were ruthless.
Drogba mingles a boxer's build with a sprinter's pace and here he burst through Wigan's thin defensive screen and, rather than shoot, made a present to Salomon Kalou. Moments later, he did the same, this time with a wonderfully-paced cross. If 5-0 was a cruel scoreline, then a sixth, from Yossi Benayoun, was vicious. "Cheap, hurtful goals," Martinez called them.
"This is very hard to explain," he reflected. "We are a side who lost 6-0 despite being the better team in the first half. My players don't deserve that feeling. However, the mental side is very important because last season we lost 5-0 to Manchester United and were the better team for 60 minutes."
In the wake of their evisceration by Tottenham, the club offered to refund those fans who had travelled to London. Even Wigan, whose Tannoy announcement before kick-off that "season tickets are still available" was one of the week's least surprising statements, would find it difficult to pay back its home crowd that had watched them capitulate to the hottest favourites for relegation in the history of the Premier League. However, for half an hour on a warm, grey evening they matched the champions. Had they started with this determination against Blackpool, the opening weekend of the season might not have appeared such a fairy tale.
Until reality came barging in with Florent Malouda's goal, Wigan looked as if they might repeat last September's 3-1 victory here that briefly halted Ancelotti's serene beginning to his first season in English football.
Yesterday it was Wigan who were caught cold as Chelsea scored with their first, second and third attacks.
The first was an exceptionally well-taken goal that began with a gossamer touch from Drogba to Ashley Cole who instantly spotted Frank Lampard and, if the midfielder's shot was parried by Chris Kirkland, Malouda merely had to roll the ball into the net.
After the interval, Nicolas Anelka brought down Michael Essien's long ball, picked his spot and drilled home with the kind of flourish that French football believes it can do without.
Moments later, Drogba ought to have headed in Malouda's cross but in the split second that Wigan might have cleared it; Anelka intervened with the speed of a panther.
If it exposed football's essential cruelty, the DW Stadium did not seem to mind. After the débâcle against Blackpool, most regarded this as a defeat foretold and before kick-off the ground had stood to applaud Sergeant Steven Darbyshire, a Wigan supporter and Marine, killed in Helmand Province. His two young children were mascots for the day, exposing yet again the folly of Bill Shankly's most famous remark about football, life and death.
Referee: Mike Dean
Man of the match: Drogba