Scolari thrilled by Blues' strength in depth

October 19, 2008

Luiz Felipe Scolari brushed aside Chelsea's injury problems after seeing his side do just that to Middlesbrough.

The Brazilian headed for the Riverside Stadium yesterday with a collection of world stars remaining behind in the treatment room and some of his so-called lesser lights having to step up to the plate.

But despite the absence of the likes of Petr Cech, Didier Drogba, Michael Ballack and Ashley and Joe Cole, they emerged on the right end of a 5-0 romp with their position at the top of the Premier League further enhanced.

The performance and result were testament not only to the depth of owner Roman Abramovich's pockets and Scolari's wealth of experience, but also to the motivation of a series of players who have had to remain stoically patient in the wings at Stamford Bridge.

No-one typified the determination to take the opportunity to impress more than Brazilian utility man Juliano Belletti, who was a revelation in a fluid midfield which tore woeful Boro to shreds.

Scolari said: "Saturday was fantastic for us because I had some players who have not played many games and they showed to me and to the people that they are in good condition to play for Chelsea.

"This is a group, this is a team, it is not only 11 players, and that is what I want.

"If Chelsea bought these players, if Chelsea think those players are good, why should I be afraid if one or two players are missing?

"I have confidence in these players. It sends a message to me - 'I am here, I want to play for Chelsea, I have ability, please look at me'.''

Chelsea's injury list had sparked an air of optimism on Teesside in the run-up to the game.

The absence of key names on the Boro team-sheet - the injured Robert Huth and Justin Hoyte joined suspended skipper Emanuel Pogatetz on the sidelines, while record signing Afonso Alves was named only among the substitutes - might have tempered that belief.

However, the ease with which Boro were taken apart was as sickening for the home fans as it was pleasantly surprising for their travelling counterparts.

It took just 14 minutes for the Blues to get their noses in front, Salomon Kalou firing home from close-range after Belletti's shot had been blocked.

Just how Frank Lampard failed to convert Florent Malouda's cross in front of goal 10 minutes later remains a mystery, and the second goal did not arrive until six minutes after the break.

It was worth the wait, however, Belletti smashing an unstoppable 35-yard missile past the despairing Ross Turnbull, whose afternoon in the Boro goal was to take several more turns for the worse.

Turnbull was helpless as Kalou's shot two minutes later went in off David Wheater's chest, and he was horribly exposed when Lampard dived to head the Ivory Coast international's 63rd-minute cross home.

The keeper was culpable as Malouda helped himself to a fifth, spilling Anelka's shot on to the post to set him up, and although he redeemed himself with a fine save from Anelka, it was a day he, like the rest of his team-mates, will want to forget in a hurry.

Scolari was at pains not to get too carried away, and insisted his players still have much to learn.

He said: "All the time, we have to improve and learn lessons if we want to get better. That's life.''