Chelsea eased to a 4-0 win over a 10-man Maccabi Tel Aviv, with three goals in the last 20 minutes in a game which was tighter than the scoreline suggests.
The changes that were made by Mourinho for this game came primarily in defence with Baba Rahman – particularly impressive tonight – Gary Cahill, and Cesar Azpilicueta coming in. Oscar was also recalled, with Pedro making way for the Brazillian to play in the no.10 role.
Maccabi were very lively in the opening exchanges, as Nosa Iglebor and Avraham Rikan both had opportunities for the home side to spring a surprise lead. In between them Oscar delivered a dangerous ball across the box but nobody was there to meet it.
After weathering the brief storm from our Israeli hosts we soon tightened our grip, our full back looking particularly profitable as Azpilicueta and Baba Rahman both delivered great width which Maccabi struggled to deal with.
Eventually our dominance told and on the 20 minute mark it was Gary Cahill who gave us the advantage. A corner from Willian was met by the England international. However, Predrag Rajkovic pulled off a wonder save to deny him but he gleefully poked home the rebound to give us the lead.
There was some slick passing moves from Chelsea as they begun to look something like the side that dominated last season. We zipped the ball about with verve and precision as Fabregas and Hazard in particular – two players who have far less impressive this season than last – caught the eye with their own vision.
Just before the break we were further helped by our former centre-back Tal Ben Haim receiving his marching orders. Hacking down Diego Costa when clear through on goal gave the referee no choice but to send him off. That said, it was the hosts who nearly scored after the restart. Eli Dasa found himself in tons of space and it took Asmir Begovic to be at his best to deny him.
Rajkovic in the Maccabi goal had a blinding few minutes as he denied Eden Hazard and then Cesar Azpilicueta with an amazing save. The final scoreline was quite harsh on the Serbian goalkeeper who personally had a game he can be proud of. Begovic was also on form as he denied their main dangerman Eran Zahavi with a top save.
On the 72nd minute, Willian did was Willian does best. If the Brazillian could choose where to place a free kick it would be roughly where the foul occured and he stepped up with great aplomb and scored his sixth goal of the campaign. Shortly before John Terry went off with an ankle injury. Kurt Zouma replaced him.
Three minutes later the game was most certainly over as Baba Rahman delivered another fantastic cross which Oscar could not fail to head in to make it 3-0. Pedro nearly scored a fourth but shortly after Kurt Zouma did exactly that. An Oscar corner was met by the Frenchman and wrapped up what was at times a testing but ultimately comfortable victory, giving us consecutive wins for the first time in two months.
It is too soon to say we have turned a corner – after all, we have only beaten Norwich and Maccabi Tel Aviv – though it does set up an intriguing encounter with Tottenham in our next match.