Chelsea 4 Cardiff City 1
On an eventful afternoon at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea did enough to take all three points and remain hot on the heels of league leaders Arsenal. The Blues went behind to their visitors from South Wales after just 10 minutes when poor defending let Much in to score. A controversial goal from Eden Hazard levelled things up before the break and he added another late on following strikes from Samuel Eto’o and Oscar to give José Mourinho’s side a well deserved victory.
Chelsea were forced into a defensive change due to injury to Ashley Cole and Ryan Bertrand made his first start of the season at let-back. Willian was handed a home debut in place of Oscar, who had travelled to the Far East on international duty whilst Eto’o was preferred to Demba Ba up front, with Fernando Torres on the bench.
With Cardiff in turmoil following the sacking of their head of recruitment during the international break, it was expected that they would be no match for a Chelsea side finally finding their best form. After just 10 minutes that idea was dispelled when the Bluebirds took the lead after a horrendous defensive error. Ramires played the ball back to David Luiz but the Brazilian defender inexplicably let the ball roll by him and Much stole in and clipped his effort past Petr Cech, who was unable to mark his 300th Premier League appearance with a clean sheet.
It was a shock to the system but Chelsea responded strongly and with 16 minutes gone could have been level. Juan Mata’s corner found John Terry in the box and his flick on looked destined to hit the back of the net but went just wide of the post.
Cardiff continued to look dangerous though and it took a superb save from Cech to deny Odemwingie after he met a free-kick with a well directed header. Fortunately Chelsea’s number one was able to stop it finding the top corner.
Chelsea continued to press forward and with half an hour gone were aggrieved not to have a free-kick and a one man advantage. Frank Lampard had played a long ball upfield for Eto’o and when Marshall rushed out form the Cardiff goal he clearly caught the ball outside his area. The referee didn’t see it that way though and Marshall got away with it.
Then came the biggest controversy of the afternoon, putting the first Marshall incident in the shade. The Cardiff ‘keeper was bouncing the ball inside his box when Eto’o nipped in from behind and stole it from him. He passed to Hazard who square back to him and although the Cameroonian striker couldn’t hit the target the ball fell again to Hazard who smashed it home for 1-1. It was a very fortunate equaliser but perhaps made up for the earlier poor decision not to send off Marshall.
Chelsea were now looking more comfortable and Luiz felt confident enough to have a go from range, although his effort went sailing high over the bar. Just before half-time Lampard had a decent opportunity after Mata was fouled by Cowie, presenting a free-kick but the vice-captain’s shot went wide of the mark.
There was still plenty of work to be done in the second half and the visitors continued to look dangerous, particularly when David Luiz misplaced a pass and was left chasing Much back towards goal, although he did enough to get the ball back. Marshall was then booked for time wasting, something which the Bluebirds players had been doing from the moment they scored and which was irritating the majority inside Stamford Bridge.
Nothing was really coming Chelsea’s way as the hour mark approached and so Mourinho made his first changes, bringing on Oscar for Mata followed shortly after by Torres for Bertrand.
The change to three at the back made the hosts much more dangerous and within three minutes of Torres coming on Chelsea finally took the lead. Eto’o showed all of his class as he picked up a Hazard pass on the edge of the box and danced past Steven Caulker before powering an effort into the back of the net.
The striker was clearly delighted with his first goal for the club and he was applauded off moments later as Mourinho reverted to four at the back with the introduction of Cesar Azpilicueta. The manager himself was soon involved in the thick of the action with twenty minutes left when he was ordered to the stands, enraged at the referee telling Branislav Ivanovic to take a throw-in quicker having tolerated Cardiff time wasting for most of the game.
Cardiff still had a foothold in the game at that stage, with a narrow one goal lead far from enough for Chelsea, but with 13 minutes to go Oscar sealed it. Space was opening up at the back and Oscar had all the time in the world to advance before smashing an effort over Marshall and in off the crossbar from 20 yards.
Then, just to rub salt in the ‘keeper’s wounds, Hazard added a fourth with a shot that went underneath the Scottish international and capped what was, for him, an awful day.
Chelsea enjoyed their final ten minutes of a victory that moves them up to second in the table following Liverpool’s draw with Newcastle earlier on Saturday, and are in good form ahead of games Arsenal and Man City in the next seven days.
Chelsea; Cech; Ivanovic, D Luiz, Terry, Bertrand (Torres 62), Ramires, Lampard, Willian, Mata (Oscar 58), Hazard, Eto’o (Azpilicueta 68)
Unused subs; Schwarzer, Cahill, Essien, De Bruyne
Scorers; Hazard 32, Eto’o 65, Oscar 77, Hazard 82
Referee; A Taylor