Chelsea 4-0 Sunderland

It was just too easy as Sky Sports George Best illustrated with the words: "The gulf in class was massive it was men versus boys."

The emphatic scoreline should have been dramatic. Gianluca Viallis Chelsea, rated second-favourites in the race for the new Premiership season, might have rattled in as many as TEN had they produced quality finishing to match the superbly, fluid approach play.

The main culprit in the wasteful stakes? None other than the club's 10million record signing. Chris Sutton, one-time Blackburn star who many rate as one of the best hitmen from these shores, missed two sitters either side of the break.

Fortunately, except for Dan Petrescu the Romanian hit the woodwork twice Suttons team-mates showed him and the new-boys Sunderland -how it should be done. Gustavo Poyet (two), Gianfrano Zola and Blues substitute, Tore Andre Flo all took their opportunities with sheer class.

That more than appeased the Blues hoardes packed into Stamford Bridge, a highly-expectant bunch after the narrow call of last year when they finished third in the table, only slipping out of the title chase a few weeks from the conclusion.

Much of that demise was to do with the loss of Uruguayan ace Poyet to injury. Top scorer at the time, his regular habit of hitting the net was sorely missed during crunch time last April and May.

Just why became obvious only minutes into the 1999-2000 season, when fom Dennis Wises inswinging corner, Poyet powered his header past Sunderland keeper Thomas Sorenson until then quite magnificent in making three blinding saves to deny Zola, Sutton and Poyet.

Poyet was heavily involved in the second strike, setting up Italian veteran Zola to make it 2-0 and all but end Sunderlands hopes of a decent start to their bid to remain among the elite. Zola looked too wide as he took the pass but managed to strike a fine shot across into the far corner.

The second half was even more one-sided, Flo coming on to thump his header in from a perfectly-floated cross from Petrescu before Chelsea produced the very best of the lot. Zola racing down the right-hand side, crossing ideally for Poyet, who crashed in his second and Chelseas fourth.

No wonder Zola was satisfied, admitting: That was the best and a very good goal. He put it away like Billy Big-time. A phrase I've learned here.

"Its a nice start but we want to be playing like this at the end of the year. We will try and be better than last year but, of course, it's not an easy task because we have to be more consistent and, hopefully, score more goals.

The new boys Chris and Didier Deschamps played very well. Analyse our performance and it was very good team effort. The new guys settled in and were quite happy.

Poor Sunderland, outclassed and outpassed, barely managed a shot on goal, Niall Quinn having their best effort with a low drive straight at Eddie De Goey in the second half.

But manager Peter Reid was still smiling. Just! Beaten 6-0 on their last visit to Stamford Bridge, Reid said: "Chelsea were different class, their movement and passing was quite exceptional. I don't normally talk about the other side but they were marvellous.

"It was a lesson, and it is a bad start but there is a long way to go - there's no question we are better equipped than the last time were in the division to stay here, much stronger - and with far greater depth."

They're going to need it all - and more on this evidence.

Chelsea: De Goey, Ferrer, Desailly, Leboeuf, Le Saux, Petrescu (Di Matteo 86), Wise, Deschamps, Poyet (Babayaro 79), Sutton (Flo 73), Zola.
Subs Not Used: Hogh, Hitchcock.
Booked: Le Saux.
Goals: Poyet 20, 78, Zola 32, Flo 77.

Sunderland: Sorensen, Makin, Bould, Butler, Gray, Summerbee, Ball (Fredgaard 60), Rae, Lumsden (McCann 46), Quinn, Phillips.
Subs Not Used: Helmer, Dichio, Marriott.
Booked: Rae, Makin, Quinn.

Att: 34,831
Ref: M Riley (Leeds).

Last season: Chelsea 3rd, Sunderland 1st (Division One)

Top scorers 1998/99 (all comps):
Chelsea: Zola 15, Poyet 14, Flo 13
Sunderland: Phillips 25, Quinn 21, Dichio 12

IN: Chris Sutton (Blackburn, 10m), Didier Deschamps (Juventus, 3m), Jes Hogh (Fenerbahce, 300,000), Mario Malchiot (Ajax, Free), Carlo Cudicini (Castel Di Sangro, one-year loan)
OUT: Michael Duberry (Leeds, 4.5m), Andy Myers (Bradford, 800,000), Brian Laudrup (Ajax, Undisclosed), Dmitri Kharine (Celtic, Free), Eddie Newton (Birmingham, Free)
IN: Stefan Schwarz (Valencia, 4m), Carsten Fredgaard (Lyngby, 1.8m), Steve Bould (Arsenal, 500,000), Thomas Helmer (Bayern Munich, Free)
OUT: Michael Bridges (Leeds, 5m), Lee Clark (Fulham, 3m), Andy Melville (Fulham, Free), Martin Scott (Released)

Last meeting: Chelsea 6 (Zola, Sinclair, Petrescu, Hughes 2, Di Matteo) Sunderland 2 (Stewart, Rae) [16 Mar 1997]

Head to Head:

Last Sunderland league win here was in March 1957 - have not won in last 14 league visits

Chelsea are unbeaten in last 10 Premiership games, but drew 4 of the last 7 in Premiership.
Scored more than 2 goals in only 3 of last 26 Premiership games, but conceded more than 2 goals only once last season in win at Blackburn (56 games in all competitions).
Have dropped 14 points from a winning position in Premiership this season (drawn 7 games in which they led) this was the worst such record of the top 3 title contenders.
Chelsea have not lost a game which have lead in (all competitions) since defeat at West Ham in March 1998.