Clinical, professional, stylish. Those three words succinctly describe Chelsea's 5-1 demolition of Southampton in the third round of the FA Cup.
The scoreline and the balance of play bore a close resemblance to last month's win over Leeds United in the Capital One Cup, though perhaps this latest victory was even more clear-cut. Whereas the Yorkshiremen made it a contest for an hour, Southampton looked there for the taking from the moment Demba Ba equalised with his first goal for the club. Better yet, the game was as good as over once Victor Moses had turned the tie on its head on the stroke of half time.
The Blues' response to falling a goal behind was excellent. There was no panic in the ranks, nor were there any recriminations for a lapse in defensive concentration that allowed Jay Rodriguez to finish smartly past Ross Turnbull. Instead, the Blues showed patience and faith in their own ability. The intricate patterns of play between Juan Mata, Eden Hazard and Moses began to yield increasing amounts of space amongst the opposition -- the Saints defenders were often left tackling air as the ball fizzed around them with unerring accuracy.
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Chelsea were determined to conduct the game on the front foot despite a buoyant St. Mary's Stadium cheering on their side, yet, despite the focus on attack, there were few alarms at the back as the Blues dominated possession. Rodriguez's goal aside, Gary Cahill and Branislav Ivanovic were rarely troubled, with Cesar Azpilicueta's only errors manifesting themselves in his attempts to cross the ball into the penalty area.
Ross Turnbull also played his part. The stand-in goalkeeper is not an individual to inspire much faith amongst Chelsea supporters, but he was dependable when called upon. An excellent double save in the second half will give the Englishman a healthy dose of confidence ahead of a string of fixtures in which he will be expected to play, with Petr Cech ruled out for another fortnight at least.
But this match was all about the free-flowing attacking football produced by Chelsea and in particular the excellent movement provided by the man making his debut: Demba Ba.
The Senegalese striker was constantly on the move, helped by the fact that he was always balanced on the balls of his feet, never on his heels. His display gave added verve to the front line, and his quick darts and clever runs bought him space to operate, either when he lost his attending defender or when his marker stuck to him diligently and therefore gave his teammates license to roam.
Hopefully, onlooking Fernando Torres will have learned something about leading the line from the new signing; after all, the Spaniard's impressive work-rate is often undermined by his lack of positional awareness. For example, take the closing moments of the recent win at Goodison Park when Chelsea suddenly found themselves attacking three-on-one and a match-clinching goal seemed all but certain. Instead of driving to one side or the other, Torres chose instead to plough forward in a straight line, enabling the defender to effectively cover all three attacking players. Ba's effervescence mixed with intelligence against Southampton was in stark contrast to that aberration as he continually stretched the pitch.
And then, of course, there were his goals. The first might have been the easiest he has ever scored -- poking Mata's goalbound shot into the roof of the net from all of six inches out -- but much of a striker's game is about being in the right place at the right time. It's an instinct that cannot be taught, and Ba showed that uncanny ability to level the scoreline.
Meanwhile, Ba's second goal was a product of his excellent movement. Although he will be thankful for an inch-perfect pass from Hazard, when a player makes the right runs, the chances created become easier to convert, and his first-time finish came as a result of his own intelligent decision-making.
If that display wasn't enough to warm the hearts of Chelsea fans, Frank Lampard's goal from the penalty spot certainly did. "Super Frank" has joined Kerry Dixon at second on the all-time Chelsea goalscorer list with 193 goals. Ten more and he will overtake Bobby Tambling to officially become the most prolific marksman in the history of the club. All but the most curmudgeonly will be praying that the powers that be afford him enough time to claim the record he richly deserves.
Although the game's scoreline undoubtedly will attract plaudits and renewed optimism, given the brace from Chelsea's latest acquisition, it should be remembered that Nigel Adkins' Southampton line-up was shorn of its best players. The attacking triumvirate of Ricky Lambert, Gaston Ramirez and Adam Lallana was absent from the starting eleven, with promising young full back Nathaniel Clyne also missing. The Saints have bigger fish to fry in their battle against relegation; an extended run in the cup competitions was never going to be top of their priorities.
The same cannot be said about high-flying Swansea City, who visit Stamford Bridge for the first leg of the Capital One Cup semifinal next week. Michael Laudrup's aesthetically pleasing side will fancy their chances, and the Blues can expect a much tougher contest.
Nevertheless, the latest Chelsea goalfest was the perfect way to react after the disappointment of defeat to QPR, and, with confidence restored, there is no reason a decent lead cannot be taken to Wales for the second leg, should the same clinical, professional and stylish approach endure Wednesday night.
Follow Phil Lythell on Twitter @PhilLythell