Chelsea dispatched Manchester United in expert fashion with a fantastic victory against Manchester United, inflicting on Jose Mourinho his greatest Premier League loss.
The former Blues boss was greeted with a warm reception on arrival, but once the match kicked off, pleasantries were no more as Pedro broke the deadlock after 30 seconds. That was followed with goals from Cahill, Hazard and Kante, as Mourinho’s game plan was torn to shreds.
It means Conte’s men now rise into the Top Four, with the top five separated by just one point, whilst Mourinho’s men languish behind in seventh, marking an unhappy return to SW6 for the Portuguese.
It was the perfect first-half for Chelsea, who spoiled Mourinho’s homecoming from the off within 30 seconds.
A hopeful punt upfield by Macros Alonso looked innocuous enough, but when Pedro saw an opportunity Daley Blind did not, the Spaniard lost his marker, rounded the onrushing David De Gea, and slotted home an expert goal to bring about the season’s quickest goal to date in his 50th game for Chelsea.
It was a statement to make for Chelsea, who needed to show their big-game mentality after the top losses against top-level opponents in Liverpool and Arsenal earlier in the season, but it was just the start Conte would have dreamt.
Thibaut Courtois has not conceded since Conte switched to his system of five at the back, but Manchester United had aerial threats in abundance and set-pieces were a big source for concern amongst the home faithful, especially when Ibrahimovich climbed over Azpilicueta to head narrowly over.
Valencia was United’s biggest threat with some dangerous crosses down the right, but Chelsea’s wing-backs themselves were doing a great job, as demonstrated when Moses’ corner nearly became an assist had Hazard been more precise with his shooting.
Moses, Pedro and Costa were working together beautifully at every open-play opportunity but the game’s second goal would come from the stand-in captain Gary Cahill, who rifled in from a corner after losing Smalling. Only 21 minutes had been played.
The remainder of the first half was about the visitors clinging onto the 0-2 loss but it no easy feat, with Pedro, Moses and Hazard all nearly finding Costa; Daley Blind was having a nightmare on the left.
Rashford, who had not even made his first-team debut the last time these two sides met in February, was enjoying playing against Chelsea for the first time and nearly got his side back into it but opted to place his shot rather than go for power, and the Chelsea defence smothered.
Herrera then was resorted to a long-range effort — one which Courtois should have done better saving — but made amends with a good reflex save from Lingard’s rebound.
Costa should have made it three right on the stroke of half-time when he controlled a Luiz free-kick beautifully, and the story was the same at the start of the second half except this time Costa did have the ball in the net but from an offside position.
Mourinho responded in the interval by introducing Mata, and 10 minutes later Rojo, but Chelsea were in a good position to dictate, albeit fortunate to still have 11 men on the field after a horror Luiz challenge.
Really quick break saw the four of Moses, Kante, Costa and Hazard bear down on the two last men of Manchester United, and whilst Moses delivered a good ball, Hazard’s shot was blocked.
Lingard had a fierce shot well saved but all the goals were at the other end as two became three.
Mata and Valencia were caught ball-watching as Hazard exchanged a one-two off Matic before cutting in past Smalling and firing home in classic Hazard style, but still in unstoppable fashion despite surely the predictability.
The icing on the cake came through a delightful Kante maiden goal for his new side. The Frenchman waltzed his way through the United back-line before side-footing past De Gea. It was an expert goal and it was four.
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Man of the Match
ENTIRE CHELSEA TEAM: For all the talk Mourinho came back with something to prove, the largely unchanged Chelsea squad needed to prove their qualities too, and boy did they do that. Right from the back with soms excellent defending by Moses and Alonso — whose roles seriously cannot be underrated in this 5-2-3 set-up — to Hazard and Costa, Chelsea were a pleasure to watch. And we have not always said that of late. 9/10
Conte was ecstatic: “I am pleased with the performance, we started well, moved the ball quickly, created chances to score the goal. I see the commitment in training and the players deserve this. We are improving, we must continue to work, only through the work we can improve. It is very important after the Arsenal and Liverpool defeats, it was important to understand our mission.”
Mourinho knew his new side lost the game after 30 seconds: “It started badly after a few seconds. We were coming to have an offensive approach, we wanted to create chances… [but] we made incredible defensive mistakes, individual mistakes and you pay for that.” On his reception, Mourinho said: “It was fine, I was not expecting anything different here. The crowd behaved in a normal way.”
Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.
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