English Premiership

Hazard fires Blues to the top

2014-01-11 17:20
Eden Hazard (AFP)

Kingston-upon-Hull - Second-half goals from Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres gave Chelsea a 2-0 victory at Hull City on Saturday that fired the Blues to first place in the Premier League.

Chelsea put in a classic Jose Mourinho performance, patiently wearing down their hosts before grabbing the breakthrough and killing off the game.

Hull looked like they were coping with their illustrious visitors until a flash of brilliance from Hazard in the 56th minute gave Mourinho's side the lead.

Torres sealed the victory with three minutes left to mark his 200th Premier League appearance with a goal.

Hull were beaten 2-0 at Stamford Bridge on the opening day of the season, when the Tigers were blown away in the first 25 minutes by a rampant Chelsea performance.

The opening exchanges at the KC Stadium were not quite a role reversal, but it looked like Steve Bruce's team had learnt from their experience in August.

The hosts were sharp and pressed Mourinho's men into a string of sloppy mistakes, and they might have even taken the lead.

Ahmed Elmohamady saw a dipping shot from 20 yards held by Petr Cech and the Chelsea goalkeeper had to push away Jack Livermore's effort from similar distance after strong hold-up play by Yannick Sagbo.

Alex Bruce sent a free header over from a Tom Huddlestone corner, before another Chelsea error presented Hull with a golden chance.

Livermore closed down John Terry and his blocked clearance fell kindly for Sagbo 12 yards out, but the Ivorian's first-time shot flashed narrowly wide.

Torres cut a lonely figure against Hull's trio of centre-backs, but the attacking threat of Oscar, Willian and Hazard was clear as the visitors began to stir.

Hull have kept six clean sheets at home this season, but they needed some excellent goalkeeping from Allan McGregor to prevent Chelsea going ahead 10 minutes before half-time when Hazard teed up Oscar.

The Brazil star timed his arrival in the box perfectly and smashed a shot goalwards from 10 yards, only for McGregor to pull off an unlikely point-blank save.

The Scot was in action again on the stroke of half-time, when he pushed over David Luiz's dipping free-kick from 35 yards after a dangerous tackle on the Brazilian by Livermore, which went unpunished.

Another awkward free-kick from Luiz, this time from 25 yards, tested McGregor, who beat the ball away and was lucky that no Chelsea player could get to the loose ball.

Hull might have felt that they were doing a good job of keeping Mourinho's men at bay, but they were undone by a moment of magic 12 minutes into the second half.

Luiz's ball into Ashley Cole on the edge of the area was cleverly flicked to Hazard by the England defender.

Hazard feinted to shoot, jinked to the right, and drilled a low shot into the bottom-right corner of the net from the edge of the box for his 11th goal of the season in all competitions.

Chelsea showed admirable discipline after taking the lead and Hull, perhaps drained by their first-half exertions, struggled to mount a meaningful attack until midway through the second half.

It came when Gary Cahill's handball gave the hosts a free-kick, which Huddlestone curled wide from the corner of the penalty area.

Hull had Curtis Davies to thank for preventing a Chelsea second, when the captain stretched to block Oscar's shot after Willian had found his compatriot with a low pass 15 yards from goal.

Hull switched to a 4-4-2 system in a bid to get back into the game, but it left them vulnerable and Torres took full advantage with three minutes left.

The Spaniard collected Willian's pass and made light work of going past Bruce before drilling a shot beyond McGregor at the near post.


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