Chelsea’s premier league campaign begun this sunday afternoon at the DW Stadium against Wigan. Roberto Di Matteo’s first competitive game in charge as permanent manager saw Chelsea gain all three points on the road against a Wigan side who at the end of last season looked more like a top half team rather than relegation candidates. The 2-0 victory will please most fans even if the performance wasn’t exceptional.
Both goals in the match came in the opening six minutes and it was Chelsea’s only debutant in the starting XI, Eden Hazard who was the catalyst for both goals. After breaking up a Wigan attack, Chelsea countered with the speed that ought to be expected for the rest of the season and just the sort of football Abramovich will no doubt want to see. Lampard found Hazard who was able to turn Ramis with ease and slip a through ball into the on rushing Ivanovic who cooly fired the ball past Al Habsi and Chelsea had got their first goal of the season within two minutes.
From bad to worse. Four minutes later, Lampard was given the freedom of the pitch as he carried the ball thirty yards before once again finding Hazard, this time out wide on the right. Faced with two defenders, the Belgian star decided to attack at both and beat Figueroa for strength before once again getting the better of Ramis for speed and skill, as he fouled Hazard inside the penalty area. A day the Wigan man will want to forget. Lampard scored the penalty, squeezing underneath Al Habsi and making it 2-0 to Chelsea.
Hazard continued troubling the Wigan defence and was flattened by a cynical foul from Caldwell. Some might feel lucky to escape more severe punishment than just his yellow card.
The rest of the first half was a more even affair with both teams finding space but very little in terms of opportunities on goal. Chelsea and Torres will consider themselves unlucky that there wasn’t another penalty awarded after Torres turned Caldwell and seemingly had the better of Alcaraz before the defender appeared to block Torres but the referee thought it was a “Shoulder to Shoulder” challenge.
In the second half Chelsea seemed to be settling for their 2-0 win as the players didn’t seem to be making the same forward runs ahead of the playmakers. Wigan seemed the more likely to score and potential Chelsea signing Victor Moses provided the majority of the threat throughout the game but poor decision making and execution in the final third meant Wigan ended the game without a goal to show for it. Oscar came on during the second half and had a flashing drive across goal, whilst Torres had an off balance poke at goal which beat Al Habsi but didn’t have the power on the ball to beat Ramis to the net.
Chelsea’s lineup – It was the same eleven that started the Community Shield with the exception of Ryan Bertrand coming in for Ramires who is suffering from illness. The decision was justified following Bertrand’s display who looked to get forward whenever possible and provided valuable cover for Ashley Cole defensively in dealing with Moses and Maloney. The star of the show was no doubt Eden Hazard. His interplay with his team mates was sharp and his partnership with Juan Mata looks set to blossom with both players looking to be on the same wavelength. Hazard, who lasted 63 minutes before being substituted by fellow new signing Oscar was awarded the man of the match for his performance.
Oscar looked equally bright when on the pitch. The 20 year old who only recently joined up with the team following his impressive display for the Brazilian national team during the olympics was sharp on the ball and his movement was positive and dangerous always finding himself in space.
The clean sheet was equally as important as it was something Chelsea hadn’t managed all pre season however it wasn’t without fault. A 10-15 minute spell in the second half saw all four defenders give away possession near the edge of the box carelessly, the errors appeared to be contagious as Petr Cech rolled the ball straight to a Wigan player but the danger was gone thanks to an offside flag. Wigan appeared to have plenty of space down the right hand side of the Chelsea defence as Ivanovic found himself ball watching at times and with less cover ahead of him in Mata as opposed to Bertrand playing ahead of Cole it is an area that Chelsea will need to work on in the coming weeks. All in all the defence looked more comfortable than in the pre season, Luiz and Terry had solid games whilst Ivanovic found himself on the scoresheet.
Lampard and Mikel appeared in control on the ball and done a better job protecting the back four but in certain circumstances appear prone to being slightly flat footed and the midfield as a whole defend in a horizontal line across the pitch and can be bypassed by a single pass. Mata appears to be feeling the affects of a season without holiday and looked like the player we saw at the Olympics as opposed to the Mata we saw at Chelsea during the regular season. His final ball lacked the accuracy we grew accustomed to seeing. Fernando Torres up front was not involved for large parts of the game but did show glimpses of threatening, however fans will expect much more with the service that he is in behind this season.
It might not have been the dream performance for Roberto Di Matteo following the start in the opening ten minutes but three points and a clean sheet I believe will leave him more than happy. Chelsea’s next game is against Reading on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, a similar result will be expected over the newly promoted side.