LONDON (AP) Chelsea eased to a 4-0 victory over Maccabi Tel Aviv in its opening Group G match in the Champions League on Wednesday, but the performance at Stamford Bridge was not as convincing as the scoreline.
Willian and Oscar hit the back of the net in the first half, before a brilliant finish from Diego Costa and a late Cesc Fabregas goal rounded off the scoring.
The result was emphatic but the display was ponderous, particularly in the first half when Eden Hazard, usually Chelsea’s most dangerous player, missed a penalty and routinely lost possession for his team.
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But after a tumultuous start to the season, which has seen Jose Mourinho’s side lose three of its opening five games, the Chelsea manager cared more about the confidence-boosting result than the performance.
”For so long we don’t win a game, I forgot the feeling,” Mourinho said. ”I know what you are thinking, we did not beat Real Madrid, Barcelona or Bayern Munich but. I can imagine how difficult it would be for everyone to wake up after a defeat.
”When you start the game you have to win and after five minutes, miss a penalty, it was a good test. I was pleased with the reaction.”
The game began badly for Mourinho, who made six changes to the team beaten 3-1 by Everton on Saturday. Captain John Terry was demoted to the bench alongside regular starters Costa, Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Matic’s replacement in central midfield, was booked after 58 seconds for a rash high-footed challenge on Nikola Mitrovic.
Mourinho was fuming at the referee’s decision to bring out the yellow card so quickly and four minutes later, he was even angrier at the officiating by Felix Zwayer when Willian was brought down in the penalty area by onrushing goalkeeper Pedrag Rajkovic.
Zwayer pointed to the spot but only booked Rajkovic, leaving Mourinho incredulous.
Hazard stepped up to take the penalty and despite being renowned for his composure from the spot, he uncharacteristically blazed his effort high over the crossbar, into the jubilant Maccabi fans behind the goal.
But the miss did not deter Chelsea, which continued to enjoy possession, albeit while looking toothless in attack.
When the breakthrough finally came, it was fortunate. Willian’s free-kick from the left looped over his teammates in the penalty area and bounced beyond the reach of Rajkovic in the 15th minute.
Maccabi should have equalised in the 31st, when the Chelsea defense had lapse in concentration from an inswinging cross, but captain Eran Zahavi looped a header over the crossbar.
Costa, who replaced the injured Willian in the 23rd minute, won another penalty on the stroke of halftime after Tal Ben Haim tripped him.
Hazard did not step up this time; instead Oscar took the ball and sent Rajkovic the wrong way with a low effort to his left.
Any doubts of victory were removed by Costa in the 58th minute as he guided a Fabregas delivery in off the crossbar with a sumptuous strike on the turn.
Fabregas completed the scoring on 78, finishing off a sweeping counterattack.
The night’s other Group G match finished as a 2-2 draw between Dynamo Kiev and Porto.