After a tumultuous two weeks, Chelsea look to be back on track after a 2-0 win at the KCOM stadium against Hull City. Second-half goals from Willian and Diego Costa secured the three points for the Blues, while the defence registered just their second clean sheet of the season.
After defeats against Liverpool and Arsenal and having been outplayed in both, it was clear that something needed to change for Chelsea to regain a bit of momentum. Manager Antonio Conte made the changes, dropping Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas from last week’s defeat away to Arsenal, and switched to a back three, giving Marcos Alonso and Victor Moses their full debuts in the Premier League. But for the first 45 minutes, the Blues looked like a team that was just starting to come to grips with the ideas of the new formation.
Hull took advantage of Chelsea’s slow first half and could have been in front after just three minutes. David Luiz’s foul on Dieumerci Mbokani gave the Tigers a free kick from just outside the area, and Robert Snodgrass forced Thibault Courtois to tip his deflected free kick over the bar.
Chelsea started to settle down, and the switch to a 3-4-2-1 allowed the Blues to win the ball higher up the pitch and retain possession better, as Hull at times had trouble getting forward.
However, much like last season, Chelsea’s build-up play was a bit sluggish and very few chances were being created, and Ryan Mason nearly made the Blues pay just before the half-time whistle with a dipping effort from 25 yards that Courtois had to parry around the post.
After the break, Chelsea found the gear that was lacking in the first half. Minutes after the restart, David Marshall was called into action, tipping a rasping shot over the bar from Eden Hazard, after the Belgian turned Adama Diomande just inside the halfway line and slalomed in on the Hull City goal.
Chelsea should have been in front just before the hour. An interception of a slack pass from Jake Livermore by Willian allowed N’Golo Kante, who had an excellent game in his role in a two-man midfield, to make a surging run forward and find Diego Costa in space down the right. Costa held off two Hull City defenders, skipped around Marshall, and fired a shot from a tight angle. Livermore recovered to deflect Costa’s shot off the post, and the rebound fell to Kante who blazed over the bar with a gaping goal in front of him.
Two minutes later, Chelsea had their breakthrough. Costa was a thorn in the side of the Hull City defenders all afternoon, showed his strength and power on the ball to hold off defenders and find Willian coming in from the left, and the Brazilian curled a delicious shot high into the corner past a diving Marshall to give the Blues the lead.
Costa earned his reward for a top-notch performance with a goal in the 67th minute. A rampaging run from Nemanja Matic led to a blocked shot from Hull, and the rebound fell kindly to Costa, who fired into the top right corner of the Hull City goal with a flick of his right boot, and Chelsea headed back to London with a renewed confidence.