Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres provided the second-half goals that saw Chelsea beat Hull City 2-0 on Saturday and move to the top of the Premier League table.
Last Updated: 12/01/14 2:56pm
Chelsea recovered from a slack opening 45 minutes to beat Hull 2-0 in the early kick-off at the KC Stadium and go top of the Premier League thanks to Eden Hazard's second-half strike and a late Fernando Torres effort.
Hazard was in electric form and while Steve Bruce succeeded in stifling much of Chelsea's attacking threat, his side were unable to stop the brilliant Belgian.
Here we look at how Hull's 3-5-2 allowed too much space for Hazard to work, the warning signs for Hull and wonder whether Chelsea are too reliant on their star man.
Bruce made eight changes from the team that beat Middlesbrough in the FA Cup as Tom Huddlestone and Jake Livermore among those returning to the midfield with George Boyd asked to get up in support of Yannick Sagbo.
Torres got the nod as the lone striker for Chelsea with Willian, Hazard and Oscar as the three attacking midfielders behind him. With Branislav Ivanovic injured, Ashley Cole continued at left-back with Cesar Azpilicueta on the right.
Ahmed Elmohamady (27) played high up the field in the first half as Hull attacked down their right wing
Where it was won and lost
"One of the problems that the three-at-the-back has is that if you're only playing against a single striker, you have two men covering," explained Jonathan Wilson on The Footballers' Football Show earlier this month. "So the danger is that one of them becomes redundant - unless you're playing very defensively and you want two men covering."
Chelsea certainly struggled to break down Hull in the first 45 minutes as they managed just two efforts on target. But it was not a purely defensive effort from the home side as they pressed high up the field - dispossessing Chelsea four times in their own half. Ahmed Elmohamady, at right wing-back, got forward well to engage Ashley Cole and had 87 touches of the ball, more than any other Hull player.
|Hull v Chelsea - Touches|
The problem with Elmohamady occupying such an advanced position was that this created space for Hazard with the Chelsea winger getting the opportunity to run at James Chester rather than the Hull wing-back. As a result, much of the attacking action for both sides was focused down that particular wing with Hazard coming up with eight of Chelsea's 22 dribbles in the match.
As John Collins had also noted on The Footballers' Football Show, "Centre-backs tend to be uncomfortable out there against a tricky little player. They like to have a full-back there. So the weakness of the back-three with wing-backs is down the flanks."
Chelsea's attacks came down the left before the break with Eden Hazard (17) in an advanced role
It was no surprise when Hazard provided the breakthrough. David Luiz and Cole - the two other Chelsea men with the most touches in the match - linked up well in the build-up before Hazard showed his class by delaying the shot to deceive Chester before firing low past Allan McGregor.
Torres had been bypassed for much of the contest but the Spaniard glided past Alex Bruce to double the lead late on and net in consecutive Premier League games for the first time since 2012. An in-form Torres would be a big help for Jose Mourinho, but anyone who witnessed Saturday's game would be in no doubt that it is the genius of Hazard that holds the key to their title hopes.
Eden Hazard's goal came after a lengthy build-up. He was a threat with his dribbling all game.
"It was arguably our poorest performance against one of the big teams. When you're playing against the big teams, what you have to do is play well. We just didn't pass the ball well enough. We kept surrendering possession. If you keep giving it back to them, eventually they're going to create something. They're a wonderful side and a formidable force... We agreed a fee (for Nikica Jelavic) last night. We hope we can persuade him to come here. We're trying our best and we'll see what happens."
"The club made a big investment on him (Eden Hazard). To bring a player from France and pay the amount Chelsea did is because Chelsea trusted the player a lot. But he is not a talented kid any more. He is now more than that. He is a player who feels and accepts the responsibility, feels and accepts that a team player is more than a talented player and he has done it without losing his fantastic ability and fantastic talent. The kid is in a very good moment of his career."
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