Diego Costa made it two goals in as many games for Chelsea with a precious strike on his home debut to finally break down an impressive Leicester City side en route to a 2-0 victory at Stamford Bridge. It was the second match running that the tile favorites came out on top against a Premier League new boy, but for a long time Leicester provided Jose Mourinho’s men with a far sterner test than Burnley on the opening weekend. Costa’s close-range finish just past the hour markproved crucial before Eden Hazard’s late deflected strike providing the hosts with some late comfort.
It was a first-half display that harked backed to Chelsea’s costly struggles to break down lesser opposition at Stamford Bridge last season. The tempo was flat and, despite the presence of Costa and fellow summer arrival Cesc Fabregas, the attacking threat sorely lacking. It wasn’t until after the inteval that the pace quickened and Chelsea began to create regular chances against Nigel Pearson’s well-drilled backline. The breakthrough still failed to come as the post denied Oscar and Kasper Schmeichel made some fine saves. And Leicester could and arguably should have taken a shock lead, but before David Nugent twice being denied by some outstanding goalkeeping from Thibaut Courtois.
But just past the hour mark, Costa struck. As against Burnley, it was a scrappy strike, but the Brazilian-born Spanish international continued to do what he was brought in for, and is already well on his way to surpassing the goal tallies of Chelsea’s misfiring front men of last season. Leicester’s resistance had been broken and Chelsea could relax. After a fine run, Hazard’s shot took a knick off Wes Morgan to secure the three points.
Mourinho, though, will be less than pleased with a second consecutive slow start. Burnley had taken the lead on Monday evening and the club that finished a place above them in the Championship last season threatened Chelsea again early on. Leicester’s right-sided duo of full-back Richie de Laet and skillful Algerian winger Riyad Mahrez caused particular problems, with Hazard’s failure to track back often leaving Cesar Azpilicueta facing an unwelcome two-on-one situation. With his best moment, Mahrez forced Courtois into a good save with a clean strike from 20 yards. At the other end, Leicester’s center-back partnership of Morgan and Liam Moore were wholeheartedly seeing off the little threat Chelsea provided.
It had been far too labored and predictable, though, from the home side. And Mourinho may well have pointed out those faults to his players in rather harsher terms at the interval, given how his side came out for the second half. Instantly there was more intensity and better movement to their play. Within three minutes of the restart Oscar had struck a post with a fine curling effort from the edge of the box and Schmeichel had flew to his right to keep out a header from Branislav Ivanovic.
But as Chelsea increasingly sent men forward to try and get the opening goal, gaps appeared at the other end which Leicester and Nugent really should have capitalized upon. The striker who scored 20 goals in the Championship last season failed to show the clinical touch required in the top flight when twice showing a lack of composure in front of goal. On the second occasion Nugent was clean through on Courtois’ goal, but the young Belgian continued to justify his selection ahead of Petr Cech by making himself big to turn the effort wide.
It proved a crucial moment, and seven minutes later Chelsea were in front. Ivanovic was the creator, with his dummy down the right of the box leaving two defenders on the turf. His square pass was deflected hard into the chest of Costa, but the former Atletico Madrid man reacted swiftly to drive the ball into the net. The goal sucked the impetus out of the visitors’ game and Chelsea were now able to relax. There was little surprise when their lead was doubled with a moment of quality from the improved Hazard demonstrating the ultimate difference between the sides.