Chelsea begins Mourinho era with win
Chelsea ripped Hull apart from the start of its season opener, scoring both goals by the 25th minute. Oscar slotted in the first in the 13th, and Frank Lampard scored directly from an exquisite free kick 12 minutes later.
Branislav Ivanovic appeared to have headed in a third on the stroke of halftime, but the newly introduced goal-line technology confirmed that the ball failed to go over the line. The jeers that Rafa Benitez endured throughout his contentious six-month reign last season were replaced by Blues supporters’ roars of delight for Mourinho when he was introduced to the fans – nine years after first taking charge. Kisses were blown in return by Mourinho, who has spent his six years away from west London collecting titles with Inter Milan and Real Madrid.
”We need to feel that Stamford Bridge is together,” Mourinho wrote in the matchday program, stressing: ”An atmosphere that everyone enjoys.”
His exit in September 2007 was mired in acrimony, but this is a calmer Mourinho – so he says. The ”Happy One” – as he anointed himself after years as the ”Special One”- stressed to fans: ”I am at home again.” The club required a unifying figure after the discord generated by the interim appointment last November of Benitez, a former manager of rival Liverpool.
Bringing Mourinho back forced owner Roman Abramovich into a climbdown, after going through seven managers without truly satisfying the fans. Sunday was also a chance for the club to reflect on its progress in the decade since the Russian billionaire pumped his wealth into the club. The owner issued a rare statement – on the program cover – pledging to deliver ”many more years of success.”
Mourinho delivered two Premier League titles during his three years previously at the helm. And on Sunday, it was like Mourinho had never been away. But it wasn’t a case of Mourinho picking up where he left off, having endured a mixed start to the 2007-8 season before hastily departing.
This was the type of high-tempo performance Abramovich craves. It didn’t immediately follow the script, though. After Fernando Torres was fouled by goalkeeper Allan McGregor after five minutes, Frank Lampard stepped up to take the penalty. The club’s all-time leading scorer struck low to his left and McGregor batted the ball away.
But the Scotland goalkeeper was beaten in the 13th with an opener created by a pair of Belgium internationals. Played in by Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard’s resulting throughball was met by Oscar, who slipped the ball under the onrushing McGregor.
By now, the Chelsea onslaught was relentless. Hull just couldn’t cope with the Europa League winners and was contained inside its own half. The second goal was of the highest quality.
Making amends for his earlier penalty miss, Lampard struck fiercely from 30 yards (meters) with a free kick that dipped over McGregor to make it 204 goals for Chelsea. Only in the closing phases of the half did Hull manage to make incursions into Chelsea territory, but the home defense proved to be an impenetrable barrier.
Chelsea’s push for a third, though, saw an effort from Lampard punched clear, Gary Cahill slice the ball wide and Ivanovic’s header was blocked by McGregor. If the referee was in any doubt that the ball didn’t cross the line when it was scooped by McGregor, the newly-introduced Hawk-Eye cameras confirmed it wasn’t a goal to his watch.
England’s topflight is the first league in the world to use goal-line technology in all matches from this season following FIFA’s approval, but referees don’t disclose whether they relied on the cameras to make decisions. There was greater intensity from Hull in the second half, and Chelsea’s lead came under threat
But a strike from Robbie Brady and Curtis Davies’s header were repelled by Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech as the hosts matched champion Manchester United in opening with a win.