Like watching Barcelona, said a well known and usually irritable pundit. Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich must have been pleased to hear those words as Chelsea tore Hull City apart in the first half at Stamford Bridge.
Admittedly, Chelsea were playing Hull, who may spend the next few months with stiff necks as they look up the table at their nearest rivals. But for 45 minutes, Chelsea were streets ahead of the Tigers, who looked like they may have been heading to their sponsor, Cash Convertors, in the coming week to try and seek some reinforcements.
Jose Mourinho looked remarkably relaxed before the game, milking the “welcome home” applause to continue his “happy one” image that he’s been cultivating since being reappointed in the summer. He even sprung a selection surprise or two, fielding last-chance-saloon Torres and keeping Son of Drogba, Romelu Lukaku on the bench. Kevin De Bruyne, signed two years ago and sent into Belgium and Bundesliga exile, made his long awaited debut, and didn’t disappoint.
It was De Bruyne who created the first Chelsea goal on 12 minutes, threading the ball through to Oscar who slid the ball under Hull keeper McGregor. Earlier, McGregor had saved a Frank Lampard penalty kick.
Twelve minutes later, Lampard made amends for his penalty by scoring with a superbly-struck free kick, making those suggestions last season that he would leave Stamford Bridge even more absurd.
It looked grim for Hull, but they managed to keep the score down to two by the interval.
And then, Stamford Bridge went to sleep and Hull reorganised. Chelsea took their foot off the pedal and Hull stopped looking like rabbits caught in the headlights. When Mourinho was at Chelsea in his first spell, the heavy lifting was done early on and then his well organised troops sat on the lead and ensured they didn’t lose what they had carved out. It was a strategy that many people found negative and needless. In the second half against Hull, it did resemble Chelsea circa 2004-2007.
The score remained 2-0 and in some ways, this may have suited Mourinho. Not so good to start with a 4-0 (or even higher) victory and find it hard to live up to. It’s a marathon, not a sprint as the old cliché goes. It was just enough to keep everyone happy, including Hull manager Steve Bruce, who must have feared a landslide after Chelsea’s start.