Jose Mourinho enjoyed a most comfortable afternoon on his return to Premier League action at Stamford Bridge as Chelsea cast Hull City aside, 2-0. The victory looked inevitable from almost the first whistle as one of the joint favorites for the title dominated their newly promoted opponents early on. An early missed penalty from Frank Lampard would not prove costly as Oscar finished off a neat move and Lampard thumped home a stunning free-kick to make the points all but safe after just 25 minutes.
Chelsea’s early tempo dropped for the remainder of the match, but, despite a better performance in the second half, Steve Bruce’s side never looked like posing a genuine threat to a home victory. For Mourinho it was a perfect start all-round after he had been given a rousing reception by the crowd at Stamford Bridge before his return to competitive action at Chelsea after a six-year absence.
Perhaps inspired by the love-in for their returning manager, Chelsea swarmed all over Hull in the opening 30 minutes. The movement and interchange of positions of Eden Hazard, Oscar, and Kevin de Bruyne in attacking areas was causing the newly promoted side all kinds of problems and it appeared only a matter of time before their besieged defense would be breached.
De Bruyne and Hazard had already come close before Chelsea appeared set to take the lead on six minutes. One of Hull’s summer recruits Allan McGregor bizarrely rushed out of his goal to challenge Fernando Torres on the edge of the box and rather than punching away the ball, the Scot struck the Spaniard in the face to bring about a clear and most unnecessary penalty. McGregor was able to attain immediate redemption, though, as he saved Lampard’s spot kick low to his right.
Yet, it never looked like being a moment that would derail Chelsea’s progress. Hull continued to sit deep and invite pressure, with seemingly no idea how to stem the flow of attacks from the home side. On 13 minutes the opening goal finally arrived.
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It was a strike that epitomized the attacking movement of Chelsea too as Hazard cut in from the left before finding De Bruyne who quickly fed the run of Oscar in behind and the Brazilian just got to the ball ahead of McGregor to poke a shot under the goalkeeper and into the net.
Not content with just the one-goal advantage, Chelsea continued to press. After a scintillating attacking move, Lampard was denied a second time by McGregor, but the veteran midfielder would have his revenge. From more than 30 yards out Lampard struck a fearsome free-kick full of dip and swerve that bewitched McGregor, who might well have done better having got a hand to the ball.
The tempo of the match soon dropped off following the second goal as Chelsea took their foot off the gas. The home side did, though, provide a first real test for the new goal decision system. Branislav Ivanovic powered a header at goal and was only denied by a stunning reaction stop by McGregor, who then clawed the ball away just before it crossed the line.
Still, with a seemingly comfortable lead, Chelsea’s impetus had been lost and they were unable to reestablish it at the beginning of the second half. Hull finally began to enjoy some concerted possession too as they pushed higher up the pitch. Their first effort on target would not come until past the hour mark, not coincidentally following the arrival onto the pitch of recent signings from Tottenham Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore. The pair provided a noticeable extra element of quality and will surely be crucial if Bruce’s side are to survive their first season back in the Premier League.
While they were now playing their part in a more even contest, a goal to really spark the match into life was not forthcoming. The closest the visitors could muster being a header from Curtis Davies that was well held by the underworked Petr Cech.
Chelsea did regain some of their early thrust with the introductions of Andre Schurrle and Romelu Lukaku off the bench. Germany international Schurrle, came close to capping his debut with a memorable goal too as his chip over an again stranded McGregor from the corner of the box just cleared the cross bar. The hosts should also have had another penalty as Robbie Brady committed a blatant shove on Ivanovic in the box.
It was not to matter, though, as Mourinho enjoyed an ideal return. But he will know that a stiffer examination of Chelsea’s title credentials awaits against holders Manchester United in just over a week’s time, following the visit of Aston Villa on Wednesday.