Drogba At The Double (Sky Sports)
Chelsea 2 Mildesbrough 0
A master class from Didier Drogba helped Chelsea to comfortable 2-0 win over Middlesbrough at Stamford Bridge on Tuesday.
The African striker, preferred to Eidur Gudjohnsen in attack by Jose Mourinho, did not let his coach down as he showed the sort of form which tempted to Chelsea to pay 24 million for him - as he bagged both goals.
Both efforts were laid on by the ubiquitous Frank Lampard - who dominated the game - and came within two minutes of each other midway through the first half.
Chelsea were rarely troubled by a Boro side who showed effort, but little class as The Blues went seven points clear at the top of the table.
Middlesbrough actually started the game extremely brightly and almost carved an opening in the first minute, before they did win corner.
The teams then exchanged corners before the first real opportunity fell for Drogba on the edge of the area as he turned Colin Copper before unleashing a smart volley which fell straight into the hands of a relieved Mark Schwarzer.
Moments later and Drogba was not to be denied. A long hopeful ball by Lampard saw Gareth Southgate fail to clear and Drogba needed no invitation as he carried the ball on to the edge of the area before stroking it past Schwarzer.
Just two minutes later and both Drogba and Chelsea doubled their tally, this time in a more simplistic fashion as the Ivory Coast star headed home Lampard's in-swinging free kick after holding off Southgate's attentions.
Boro's passing was actually a vast improvement on some of their recent displays and Chelsea favourite Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink was trying his best to forge a way through.
However, it was Chelsea who were breaking at will whenever midfield-general Lampard gave the signal.
Schwarzer was very fortunate as he spilled shots from Arjen Robben and Damien Duff, but luckily for him his defence was back quick enough to clear.
Just before the interval and Chelsea should have gone further ahead as Lampard picked out a rare foray forward from Paulo Ferreira, but the Portuguese full back could only lift the ball over the crossbar with only Schwarzer to beat.
With Steve McClaren's words no doubt ringing in their ears, Boro again started the half well and won an early corner which Chelsea needed to scramble clear as both Southgate and Boudewijn Zenden saw efforts well blocked.
Boro maintained some possession, probably for the first time in the whole match, and Doriva fired a shot not too far wide.
Chelsea were happy to let Boro have ball and then break when it suited them.
Duff could easily have registered just before the hour as he broke in the area, after a terrible goal kick from Schwarzer, and unleashed a wicked drive which deflected off the cross bar before the Boro number one knew what had happened.
Joe Cole, who was largely ineffectual throughout, then fired a shot straight at Schwarzer - his last contribution before being substituted.
Petr Cech was called into action for the first time as a deflected effort from Stewart Downing almost caught him wrong-footed, but he claimed it after a quick correction.
Lampard almost claimed memorable effort after a wonderful run saw him dance his way to the edge of the area, beating most of the Boro midfield and defence, but he curled his shot wide of the far post with Schwarzer looking beaten.
Again Lampard, who was seemingly desperate to register a contender for goal of the season, went on another majestic run and this time he did find the target - but Schwarzer was able to parry wide.
Despite looking more than a class short of Chelsea's imperious standards - Boro did play their part in an enjoyable affair and McClaren will be pleased, if nothing else, with the endeavour shown by his troops.
McClaren will obviously bemoan the fact he is without five first-team regulars, but you can never constitute for sloppy defending and the fact is Chelsea sat-back after sinking a second.
Mourinho's men again showed the professionalism he himself now personifies and their surge for the title continues.
Ferreira, Terry, Cole (Tiago 62), Duff, Lampard, Makelele, Smertin (Johnson 50),
Drogba (Kezman 79), Robben
Subs Not Used Cudicini, Gudjohnsen
Booked Cole, Robben
Goals Drogba 15, 17
Schwarzer, Cooper, Queudrue, Reiziger, Southgate, Doriva (Morrison 72), Parlour,
Zenden, Hasselbaink, Nemeth (Job 60)
Subs Not Used Nash, Davies, McMahon
Referee S. Bennett