Chelsea regained their place solely atop the Premier League table after an enjoyable 2-0 win to Newcastle.
The win, coupled with Manchester City’s draw away to Everton, mean Jose Mourinho’s men are now two points clear of their nearest rivals after what proved to be a rather entertaining affair at Stamford Bridge.
Following another commendable display in a cup competition, young French centre back Kurt Zouma was rewarded with his first Premier League start, alongside skipper John Terry. Gary Cahill – after a disappointing display in the 5-3 loss to Tottenham – made way for Zouma. Thibaut Courtois was dropped, with the official line citing a slight finger injury, meaning Petr Cech deputised. Cesc Fabregas and Eden Hazard, who were both rested completely last weekend in the cup, returned to the side.
After losing our first game of the season to Newcastle last month, coupled with that loss to Tottenham, you would be forgiven for expecting a slightly tense opening to game, with the home side keen to avoid another unexpected loss and the away side looking to protect themselves against a Chelsea with a 100% home record.
However, that was not the case as the away side came out swinging. Frenchman Remy Cabella was an instrumental figure in the opening 45 minutes as the winger saw copious amounts of the ball and tested Petr Cech on several occasions.
After soaking up some of the pressure, we finally had our first real chance. As the Magpies committed too many men upfield it created a three on one situation – Eden Hazard blistered away and played in Diego Costa who rather than shooting decided to pull it back into the path of Oscar, but Fabrizio Coloccini was there to cut it out.
Cabella again kept Cech on his toes as he drew a fine save from the Czech goalkeeper with a curling effort. It was not over yet as moments later Moussa Sissoko hit the outside of the post and during the same move Cesar Azpilicueta went down unchallenged and hobbled off with a groin injury. Filipe Luis replaced him in a difficult first half for the Blues.
However, some quick thinking and slick passing some Chelsea take the lead at half time, and caretaker John Carver will be left cursing his side’s defending. A smart quick corner routine saw Willian slide in Branislav Ivanovic pulled it back for Oscar, who coolly slotted home for his fifth of the season.
After the break it was not long until Chelsea could have doubled their lead, had the referee given the penalty the crowd believed should have been. Diego Costa crossed the ball into the box, only to be denied by Coloccini’s outstretched arm. It looked clear, but Roger East thought nothing of it and play went on.
However it wasn’t long until there our lead was doubled. Eden Hazard lofted a nice ball into Oscar, who in turn played in Diego Costa with a sumptuous back heel, and our top scorer took his tally for the season up to 15 with a typically calm finish.
Chances still came our way, namely to Eden Hazard and Diego Costa, but some smart defending from Coloccini – arguably the away sides finest player on the day – denied the scoreline becoming any more one sided.
Loic Remy had come on as a substitute for Costa and had a half-chance sniffed out against his old side, but 2-0 would be the final score and capped a satisfactory display for Chelsea, after weathering something of a first half storm.
Our next game comes on the 17th January, as we travel to South Wales to face Swansea City.