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TOP MARKS FOR ANCELOTTI; Carlo's Blues crush Clarets.

Byline: STEVE STAMMERS

CHELSEA 3 Anelka 45, Ballack 47, A.Cole 52

BURNLEY 0

IT WAS ruthless. It was emphatic. And it was a statement of serious intent - Chelsea want the title back at Stamford Bridge.

As much as it was a reality check for Burnley, Chelsea's performance provided ample evidence that they have the talent, organisation and the iron will to finish the season as champions after three years of frustration in the Premier League.

There is the same sheen of invincibility that was evident under Jose Mourinho, that same dynamic that was the hallmark of the Special One. In Carlo Ancelotti, Chelsea have finally found the heir apparent to the Portuguese.

Ancelotti may be comfortable without the kind of aura and charisma in which Mourinho basked. But the public facade of modesty clearly disguises a shrewd tactical brain - and, crucially, he has the ability to transmit his message to the players.

They have an air of invincibility, the strut of a team where the individuals know their jobs and are comfortable with what they are asked to do.

"We won't be playing the Chelseas of the world every week," said Burnley manager Owen Coyle who, while raising a question mark against the validity of Chelsea's opening goal - "It might have been offside," he claimed - had no quibble with the result of the match. "It was a lesson at times," said Coyle.

"But they do have world-class players. It is no disgrace to come to Chelsea and lose."

The result has a ring of respectability. The reality was that without the acrobatics and sheer presence of the Clarets' giant keeper Brian Jensen, the scoreline might have reached embarrassing proportions.

He made at least half-a-dozen memorable saves and just as many invaluable interceptions to keep Chelsea at bay.

But there was also a ring of inevitability about the final destination of the three points the moment that Burnley's defence was breached on the stroke of half-time.

Michael Essien - the star of the show- finally found the penetrative pass that exposed Burnley's defence.

Didier Drogba accelerated clear and crossed low into the area where Nicolas Anelka was well placed to slide the ball home after Clarke Carlisle's abortive effort to clear.

Ironically, Burnley might well have been ahead by then with their one true opening of the game. After 10 minutes, Tyrone Mears took advantage of an untypical lapse by Frank Lampard to set up Martin Paterson but the finish was wayward in front of a gaping goal.

Anelka should have scored four minutes earlier but became the first victim of Jensen's heroics when the Dane won a one-on-one battle with the striker who had capitalised on a misplaced pass by Andre Bikey.

But Paterson's miss proved to be the more costly because Burnley never troubled Petr Cech again. Jensen, in contrast, hardly enjoyed a moment's respite all afternoon.

Within two minutes of the -re-start, it was game over. Lampard's cross from the left was precise and Michael Ballack's header was so accurate that not even Burnley's Great Dane could keep the ball out.

In the 52nd minute, Chelsea emphasised their superiority with a third as Lampard played a neat one-two with Ashley Cole and the England left -back drove home with a venom that exposed his roots as a winger.

It was damage limitation after that and Chelsea peppered the Burnley goal.

Jensen remained defiant - as did Coyle, who said: "We will take our medicine and we will pick ourselves up and go again."

As for Chelsea, they are looking increasingly comfortable - and menacing - as they benefit from the tutelage of the understated Ancelotti.

He has been insistent that Chelsea play the formation he wants. It is a midfield diamond with Lampard at the tip and Essien at the base - jewels both.

"We are working to play well and for a coach that is important," said the Italian. "It means we are going the right way. I propose an idea and the players develop this idea."

In other words - my way or the highway. It is always the quiet ones you have to watch out for, as they say.

DID YOU KNOW?

Chelsea's starting line up for this game had an average age of 29 years and 291 days - the oldest in the Premier League this season

CAPTION(S):

BRIDGE OF HIGHS: Ancelotti has his Chelsea side firing TAKING TO THE MICHAEL: The home fans express their appreciation as Ballack celebrates his headed second - but it is inquest time for Brian Jensen and the Burnley defence
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Aug 30, 2009
Words:756
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