Pace, power and precision overwhelmed the home side at Molineux as a 5-0 win, including first goals for Crespo and Duff, put the Blues top of the League, albeit perhaps for just two and a half hours.
Poor Wolves had their first shot on target deep into the second half in a game Chelsea controlled completely from start to finish. If you want to know what £111m buys you, the evidence was here to see against pitiful Wanderers: class in very department. And, finally, a League clean sheet.
As early as the second minute Glen Johnson roasted winger Camara and delivered a vicious cross that only just eluded Eidur Gudjohnsen and Damien Duff along with the Wolves defence. It was a statement of intent.
By half time the Blues might have been six up. Butler almost steered into his own net under pressure from Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink from the livewire Duff’s cut-back. Then John Terry drove home the rebound off the excellent Eidur Gudjohnsen from his own header, only for it to be disallowed for handball by the Icelander. (The decision, called by the linesman, looked harsh on replays.)
Later Gudjohnsen and Frank Lampard — driving Chelsea forward all the time — both glanced good headed chances wide of the far post with goalkeeper Oakes stranded. Lampard had another good chance with his head that was feebly executed, and Jesper Gronkjaer rounded Oakes but slipped before sliding his shot wide as Wolves’s midfield and defence were shredded at will.
Both first half goals were superb examples of the angular, incisive build-ups we’ve started to enjoy this season. Gudjohnsen fed Hasselbaink, who held the ball strongly and laid it sideways to Lampard just outside the box. The England international jinked sideways for room and drove home with his left foot.
William Gallas, magisterial in the centre in Marcel Desailly’s absence, started a move that led to Duff, who waited cleverly, then fed Hasselbaink on the shoulder of Craddock, and Jimmy’s left-foot drive beat Oakes all ends up.
Local fans bemoan the fact that the board opted for the West Brom, rather than Birmingham approach to Premiership survival. Of their bargain-basement summer purchases, pacy Camara looked liveliest without causing any real concern, his one good chance in the first half blocked by Lampard
The Wanderers fans, though, were cheering every tackle like a goal and howling at every refereeing decision that went against their struggling team. As it was, referee Matt Messias had a very good game.
By the end of the game, the same fans were sportingly applauding a masterful display by the visitors.
Once the second goal went in there looked no way back for Wolves. Butler was booked for going though on Hasslelbaink, and the ludicrously puffed-up Ince’s name taken for a petulant lunge on Johnson.
Any hope Dave Jones might have had of consolidating and then nicking something back seemed to disappear soon after the break as Chelsea’s players, ticking to the tidy destruction work of Claude Makelele (making his first Premiership start) found their rhythm straight away.
The old Hasselbaink-Gudjohnsen pairing looked back to its best as the Dutchman delivered a superbly flicked pass into his partner’s path, but Gudjohnsen’s well-timed run ended with a shot straight at the keeper.
Then Makelele put in the Icelander down the left. He rounded Irwin easily and slid the ball sideways for Duff to stroke home his first Chelsea goal.
At 3-0, Wolves suddenly had a flurry of blocked half-chances, and eventually substitute Cameron delivered their only shot on target.
Now Claudio Ranieri rang the changes. Joe Cole earned his longest run in Chelsea blue as sub for Jesper Gronkjaer, booked in the first half and then visibly hurt on landing after challenging for a header. Cole was busy, inventive and worked hard.
Still Chelsea came forward. A delightful drag back from Gudjohnsen in midfield took out two Wolves players, and his sweet pass to Hasselbaink deserved better than the wide shot it finished with.
Now Hernan Crespo replaced Hasselbaink. Wolves fans clapped appreciatively. But not for long, as with his first touch he coldly thrashed home Duff’s driven cross into the box from 10 yards. It is his first goal for Chelsea, but more was to follow.
Chelsea fans — responding to a tabloid newspaper’s “exclusive” that Chelsea are targeting a well-known Swede as our next manager sang, “We don’t need Eriksson!”
Now Robert Huth came on for the tiring Johnson, Gallas switching to right back as Wolves started to pump it long across to their left. Huth was soon booked for a foul on Ince, who had looked mad with frustration all afternoon. Terry joined him in the referee’s notebook for a block on Camara.
Wolves hit the bar twice in the same late move when Chelsea failed to clear Butler’s inviting cross. Iversen, in particular, should have exploited the visitors’ momentary confusion.
Crespo was looking the part against the now feeble hosts. Gallas enjoyed one of those pacy surges of his and fed Gudjohnsen, who cut the ball back cutely, but it was cleared before reaching the prowling Crespo, who was showing shrewd movement.
His second, and Chelsea’s fifth, came after excellent work down the right by Joe Cole. The Argentinian let the midfielder’s pass ball curl towards his body on the edge of the box and stroked it home with his right foot.
Even if it was more Barnsley than Man Utd as far as our enjoyable 5-0 thrashings have gone, this was lovely, inspiring stuff.
“We are top of the league!” sang the 3,000 Chelsea fans amongst new Molineux’s biggest ever crowd of 29,208. And there’s absolutely no doubt who is going to have the more enjoyable season.