Luiz Felipe Scolari enjoyed a spectacular debut as Chelsea turned on the style to beat Portsmouth 4-0 at Stamford Bridge on Sunday. The Brazilian manager had spoken at length this week about his desire to bring a touch of flair to a Blues side always high on perspiration, but sometimes low on inspiration. His new charges seem to have got the message already.
Their touch, speed and movement left Portsmouth bewildered, and produced a performance that took the breath away. Goals from Joe Cole and Nicolas Anelka put Chelsea in control, before Frank Lampard's penalty capped the most impressive 45 minutes you will see this season. Deco added a final flourish with a stunning strike in the last minute.
Jose Mourinho brought Chelsea success beyond their wildest dreams, but even he never masterminded a show like this. After Arsenal and Liverpool gave unconvincing displays on Saturday, this was a serious statement of intent from the leading challengers to Manchester United's reign.
While it is only one game, Scolari has clearly inherited a supremely talented squad and given his players the freedom to express their gifts in a way that promises quite a season in west London. With Didier Drogba injured, the former Brazil and Portugal coach deployed Anelka as a lone striker and instructed his midfielders to flood forward in support.
After a slightly bashful wave and thumbs up when he was introduced to the crowd, Scolari got down to business and his team followed suit. With the exception of John Obi Mikel, who was charged with more defensive duties, the midfielder were able to interchange and join the attack at will.
It was an awesome sight. Lampard set the tone with a stinging long-range shot, before Chelsea broke the deadlock in the 12th minute. Deco's flick was chested back by Anelka to Michael Ballack and the German unfurled a sumptuous pass towards Cole, who kept his composure to drive a low shot past James and into the far corner.
Anelka should have doubled the lead when Lampard threaded a pass through to him, but James saved with his foot. It was only a temporary respite for Portsmouth as the France striker made amends for that miss in the 26th minute. Jose Bosingwa, maurading down the right flank with impressive power and purpose, completely unhinged Portsmouth's defence with a surging run and cross, which Deco scooped back into the six-yard box for Anelka to head into the empty net.
Deco has added an extra layer of guile to Chelsea that will make them a more unpredictable threat. Prompted by the Portugal playmaker, they weaved intricate passing patterns around Pompey's flat-footed defence time and again.
The visitors became increasingly flustered and a careless header from Sol Campbell let in Anelka, but his shot drifted wide of the far post. Portsmouth briefly came to life when Niko Kranjcar and Peter Crouch tested Petr Cech in quick succession, before Glen Johnson slammed the rebound into the Chelsea goalkeeper's legs.
That brought Scolari to his feet as the Brazilian demanded more concentration, and the Blues responded with a third goal. Another penetrating move in first-half stoppage time ended with Sylvain Distin blocking Cole's shot with his hand. Referee Mike Dean pointed to the spot and Lampard celebrated his new contract by rolling the penalty past James.
Ballack had come off before half-time with an injury, but even that did not disrupt Chelsea. Anelka drove a thunderous effort over the bar early in the second half, then Cole sprinted clear to send a shot just past the far post.
Deco capped Scolari's perfect day when he smashed a swerving shot into the top corner in the 89th minute.