No Diego Costa, no problem. Without their leading scorer, Chelsea blasted six goals past Slovenian champions Maribor at Stamford Bridge to put themselves in a strong position to progress to the Champions League knockout phase.
Costa was again missing with injury, but his deputies both got on the scoresheet. Loic Remy opened the scoring early on before having to be immediately taken off after picking injuring his groin in striking his second goal for the club. The French striker’s absence did nothing to derail Chelsea’s momentum and his replacement, Didier Drogba struck his first goal since returning to Chelsea from the penalty spot. John Terry then made it 3-0 at halftime before an own goal from Mitja Viler and a double by Eden Hazard, the first from the spot, completed the rout. A penalty hit against the post
After beginning their Champions League campaign with a disappointing draw at home to Schalke, Chelsea are now moving through the gears and, just like in the Premier League, sit top of Group G. A win in Maribor in two weeks’ time and a place in the knockout phase could already be theirs once again.
Against a side playing in the group stage of the Champions League for the first time in 15 years, a win was certainly expected for a Chelsea side that has been in tremendous form this season. But the emphatic nature of it, especially without Costa, was particularly impressive for a team short on goals in José Mourinho’s first season back in charge.
Mourinho opted to start with Petr Cech in goal and Kurt Zouma making his first Champions League start at center-back. But after Damjan Bohar headed over with the first sight of goal of the match, the pair were rarely troubled. Remy had just had an effort saved when, in the 13th minute, he opened the scoring. John Terry played an early ball forward and Remy cut onto his left foot on the edge of the box before finishing low past Maribor goalkeeper Jasmin Handanovic. Rather than joy, though, he immediately had pain etched on his face. Drogba came on to a hero’s reception and within 10 minutes he had got on the scoresheet for Chelsea for the first time since scoring the winning penalty in the 2012 Champions League final. The 36-year-old took the penalty-taking responsibilities off Hazard in order to do so, but few inside Stamford Bridge minded, especially when he found the back of the net.
Another Chelsea stalwart soon joined Drogba in getting among the scorers. From a Maribor corner, Hazard broke clear and Terry raced forward into the opposition to turn in a cross from Cesc Fabregas. Within 10 minutes of the second half, Hazard was again involved in making it 4-0. The Belgian’s cross was meant for Drogba but instead deflected into the goal off the heel of Vilar.
Hazard had a goal of his own, when shortly after Maribor has spurned his chance from the spot, he made no mistake after Branislav Ivanovic had made the most of the slightest of contact from behind. And the best was then saved for last when Hazard took a long pass forward from Nathan Ake perfectly into his path and turned a defender inside then out before finishing with authority.