Sunday Telegraph, Jonathan Wilson: "The charitable might describe this as an emphatic Chelsea win, which it was, but it would be truer to say this was a crushing Middlesbrough defeat. They were lethargic and insipid, occasionally shambolic, and Chelsea crushed them with all the effort of an elephant stepping on a sickly ant. The ruthless way they added goal after goal in the second half was mightily, cruelly impressive, but it couldn’t alter the sense that this was like a training video put together to explain the term “routine”."
The Observer, Paul Wilson: "For the second successive league match Chelsea faced a team expected to do well against them, Boro’s decent record against top-four teams having been given as much of an airing as Aston Villa’s impressive start to the season, and simply shredded their opponents. And this time they did it with a virtual reserve side, or at least a team lacking seven of its biggest names."
Independent on Sunday, Michael Walker: "Middlesbrough managed to upstage Chelsea yesterday but they did so by being an embarrassment. In conceding five goals in just over an hour, four in 16 second-half minutes, Boro at times displayed a lack of the basic competitive spirit. The players and their manager, Gareth Southgate, were rightly harangued by Teesside’s faithful. This was as joyless as the bitter times under Steve McClaren, and Southgate described it as "a humiliation. It might have been eight"."
Sunday Times, David Walsh: "Because Chelsea have been playing well recently, most particularly in the 2-0 victory over Aston Villa, there will be a temptation to laud this latest demonstration of quality and describe it as the best of Luiz Felipe Scolari’s reign. The temptation should be resisted. Middlesbrough were woeful and so Chelsea looked very good."
- Injury crisis? What injury crisis? Missing were Petr Cech, Didier Drogba, Ricardo Carvalho, Michael Essien, Joe Cole, Ashley Cole and Michael Ballack but it made no difference as we routed Middlesbrough, recording our biggest ever away win against the Teessiders. Trips to the Riverside are traditionally one of the tougher away games in the Premier League. Not this season. We were superb from the outset, playing with fluency, passing the ball quickly and controlling and retaining possession. We were utterly dominant. Boro barely had a kick and, if I remember correctly, didn’t have a corner until the 30th minute or a shot on target until the 57th. It’s great to see players coming into the team without so much as a hiccup in our performances. In the future, I’m only going to start worrying about injuries when there aren’t enough fit players for Felipe Scolari to field a starting eleven.
- We’ve gone 28 games unbeaten home and away in the Premier League, and have won four out of four on the road this season at Wigan, Manchester City, Stoke and now Middlesbrough. We’ve scored in 20 successive league games since the bore draw with Liverpool at Stamford Bridge in February. And we’re unbeaten in regulation time in all competitions since losing to Fenerbahce in Turkey in a Champions League group game in April. All rather impressive.
- Juliano Belletti. Another 35-yard wonder strike from a player who was much maligned by fans last year; quite a number of us wanted to see him moved on in the summer. It’s not that there was anything wrong with his attacking play (fabulous goals against Wigan and Spurs attested to his prowess going forward), it was that defensively he was often found wanting. But so far this season he has been a revelation in midfield. When I saw his name on the team sheet, I expected him to play the holding role like he did against Spurs at the end of August, which would have freed up John Obi Mikel to get forward more. Scolari had other ideas and played him alongside Lampard, and he had his best game yet in a Chelsea shirt. My Man of the Match.
- Frank Lampard. Chelsea’s player of the season so far. Made his 380th appearance for the Blues, drawing level with the late, great Peter Osgood at number ten in the most appearances list (he’s only got to make another 416 to beat Chopper Harris’ 795). Boro gave our midfield acres of space and Lampard took full advantage. He was at the heart of all our best play, and his range of passing was superb. Scored his sixth goal of the season with a diving header.
- Goal difference (currently 16, nine better than Liverpool’s, and eight better than Manchester United’s). Whereas Jose Mourinho would probably have been happy with one or two goals – "Why score five when two will do?" – Scolari wants to put teams to the sword and win games in style. The way things are going, the Premier League could very well be decided on goal difference if Liverpool continue to be so resilient and Manchester United continue to improve. Besides, humiliating teams is fun to watch. Just ask Mark, who travelled all the way to Teesside today.
- Middlesbrough. They were abject from front to back. "We looked like rabbits caught in the headlights," said Boro manager Gareth Southgate after the game. Yeah and then steamrollered. With minimal effort we humiliated a team that has a good home record against the Premier League’s top sides (before today we had lost twice in the last three visits to the Riverside). It’s unlikely that you’ll see a more emphatic victory this season.
- Carlo Cudicini: Apart from a couple of crosses, he hardly had anything to do. Good to see him in the starting eleven, though – 7/10.
- Jose Bosingwa: Marked Stewart Downing out of the game and was excellent going forward – 8/10.
- Alex: Untroubled. Didn’t have a great deal of defending to do, but retained possession well – 7.5/10.
- John Terry: No sign of the back injury which kept him out of the England squad last week. A good training session prior to next week’s Champions League game against Roma – 7.5/10.
- Wayne Bridge: Looked like a rusty Bridge in the opening minutes but was soon in the action and got forward well. Still lacks match sharpness, which is hardly surprising. Subbed with 26 minutes to go – 7.5/10.
- John Obi Mikel: The fulcrum around which the style revolves – 8/10.
- Frank Lampard: Another great performance. Scored his sixth goal of the season. Like a fine wine, he’s getting better with age – 8.5/10.
- Juliano Belletti: Outstanding alongside Lampard in midfield. Another screamer strengthened his status as a cult figure at the club – 8.5/10.
- Salomon Kalou: Two more goals from the talented but frustrating Ivorian. He’s scored four goals in nine appearances this season. Set up Lampard’s diving header with a delicious chipped pass – 8/10.
- Florent Malouda: I wasn’t confident he would score when he got free of the Boro defence in the second half, and he didn’t let me down. He strikes me as the type of player who performs better when he has less time to think about what to do. Overall, though, another solid game – 7.5/10.
- Nicolas Anelka: Pretty good without being spectacular – 7.5/10.
- Paulo Ferreira (sub): Replaced Bridge at left-back with 25 minutes to go. Wasn’t tested – 6.5/10.
- Deco (sub): Eased back into action with 15 minutes of the match remaining – 6.5/10.
- Scott Sinclair (sub): Good to see him get a brief run out in the league. But things were winding down by the time he replaced Anelka in the 79th minute, and he had little time to shine. Ray Wilkins told David Pleat that Sinclair has come on leaps and bounds this season. Let’s hope we see more of him then – 6.5/10.
Man of the Match
Juliano Belletti. See my gushing praise above.
This could well turn out to be one of the all time great Premier League title races. We’re setting the pace and playing some superb football despite an ongoing injury ‘crisis’, while Manchester United are easing into top gear after their traditional stuttering start. Then there’s Liverpool, who might last the course after all. They are showing some uncharacteristic resilience and, like us, remain unbeaten. Games between the three sides could well decide the destination of the Premier League trophy. We play Liverpool at the Bridge next weekend. I can feel the nerve ends jangling already. Bring it on.