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Scolari gives Chelsea Brazilian blend

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Phil McNulty | 16:30 GMT, Sunday, 17 August 2008

Luiz Felipe Scolari wants watching Chelsea to become just like watching Brazil - and there was a touch of South American swagger about the opening of the new Stamford Bridge era.

Chelsea have earned a reputation, starting under Jose Mourinho and continuing with Avram Grant, for being functional as opposed to flamboyant. Theirs was a success built on solidity.

Scolari's Chelsea retained all the old hard-nosed resilience as they thrashed Portsmouth, but there were the additional flourishes owner Roman Abramovich wanted when he appointed the one-time World Cup winner as coach.

The performance, however, must be placed in the context of the efforts of Harry Redknapp's side, who will make plenty of teams look like Brazil if they perform as timidly as they did at Stamford Bridge.

Chelsea are many experts' tip to regain the Premier League this season. I spoke to BBC Sport's Mark Lawrenson on Thursday and he echoed the views of plenty within the game that they will be the team to beat.

And all the evidence of their dismissal of Portsmouth confirmed that they will be the biggest threat to champions Manchester United in all competitions this season.

The misery of that Champions League defeat to United seems to have been air-brushed away to some extent by Scolari's arrival, and a huge banner brandished behind the goal told John Terry his iconic status has not been diminished by that infamous Moscow penalty miss.

Scolari is clearly intent on adding an extra dimension to Chelsea's game, and this was demonstrated by the performances of their two summer signings, Portugal internationals Jose Bosingwa and Deco.

Bosingwa was a constant threat, while Deco was the star of the show - although he escaped punishment for a shocking challenge on Lassana Diarra in the opening minute.

Deco set most of the charges for Chelsea to fire, and he deserved his late goal, although it was waved in by a shocking attempt at a save from David James.

Luiz Felipe Scolari

He looked built for the role of injecting some fantasy into Chelsea's style, but judgement must be reserved for sterner battles ahead.

Few teams will give Deco or Chelsea as much room as they were afforded by Portsmouth. Their passing and creation was outstanding, but they were aided and abetted by a total absence of tackling and urgency from Portsmouth.

Deco struggled at Barcelona last season, suffering from injuries that took the edge off his game, and it will take more than just one game to underscore exactly what influence he will have on Chelsea.

But as a start this was as impressive as it gets, both from Chelsea and their new midfield man.

Sol Campbell creaked in the Community Shield and did not look much better as Nicolas Anelka buzzed around Portsmouth's back four.

Anelka looked much more of a threat in a central striking role rather than stuck out on the flanks as he was under Grant. It will be intriguing to see how Scolari juggles his resources once Didier Drogba regains fitness.

Scolari's arrival appears, on first sight, to have given Chelsea their self-confidence back. They were always short of being their usual selves under Grant, achieving victories almost by force of will than with the inevitability of the Mourinho era.

The former Portugal coach commands instant respect but he will know the real battle is just beginning.

The true measure of Chelsea and how successful they will be comes against better opposition than Portsmouth. Scolari is both a pragmatist and realist - he will not be carried away by one win, no matter how good it looked.

Deco will get closer attention than he did at Stamford Bridge. Will the 30-year-old be able to maintain his level of performance in the high-tempo Premier League?

And there will be very few occasions when Chelsea will be allowed to effectively have the freedom of the park. Portsmouth seemed in awe of Chelsea, scared of the occasion and of the Scolari factor.

All these factors will be taken into consideration after a first game that will have brought huge satisfaction to Scolari and Chelsea.

Sir Alex Ferguson's predictable pre-season mind games centred on his belief that Chelsea had passed their peak. Nonsense of course, and not one of Ferguson's better jibes.

Chelsea looked in fine working order against Portsmouth, with their animated and experienced new leader conducting affairs from the sidelines.

And the feelgood factor will have increased after Newcastle claimed an unexpected, but fully deserved, point at Old Trafford.

It was excellent entertainment and all was right with Chelsea's world - but full judgement must be reserved for the tougher examinations that will be set in the coming weeks.


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