Hazard's flash of brilliance whisks Blues to the summit
If Chelsea are still not overwhelming their opponents away from home they cannot be faulted for economy of effort.
A single moment of quality from the exceptional Eden Hazard was enough to win an otherwise scrappy and uneventful contest and take Jose Mourinho's side to the top of the Premier League. Fernando Torres's late second was mere decoration; Hull never looked like being allowed back into the contest once they had gone behind.
"After the first goal I was happy because we were in control," Mourinho said. "We were always the more likely to score the next one, and when we did the game was over."
Steve Bruce did not disagree. "It became a very difficult afternoon for us once we went behind," the Hull manager said. "We were OK in the first half but in the second we were nowhere near, we couldn't keep hold of the ball."
Both these teams are in the market for new strikers, with Hull apparently closer to doing business than Chelsea, and in a goalless first half it was not difficult to see why. Few clear-cut chances were created, yet each side had a golden opportunity to take the lead and neither managed to take it.
At least Chelsea managed to hit the target after half an hour, when Ashley Cole and Hazard created a shooting opportunity for Oscar, but the Brazilian should still have done better from near the penalty spot than place a shot too close to the falling Allan McGregor. The goalkeeper managed to push the ball away almost by instinct, though Oscar needed to be more clinical.
Hull's best opening came a few minutes earlier, when a John Terry mistake near his own line allowed Ahmed Elmohamady to dispossess him and cue up Yannick Sagbo for a shot. It needed to be hit first time, and Sagbo managed that, only to see the ball clear Petr Cech's right-hand post without the goalkeeper needing to save. To miss completely from inside an unprotected penalty area was pretty unforgiveable, and one could understand the pursuit of Everton's Nikica Jelavic, a more reliable finisher. "A fee has been agreed, now we have to persuade him to come here," Bruce said.
Apart from those two incidents, the nearest the first half came to a goal was right at the end, when David Luiz tested McGregor with a free-kick from 25 yards. Luiz threatened again in a similar manner at the start of the second half to bring another save from McGregor, this time a more comfortable one, as Chelsea began to attack with a little more purpose.
Operating in a midfield role and advancing up the pitch at will, Luiz was also involved in the move that led to the opening goal. His pass forward on the left was helped on by Cole to Hazard, who carried it along the edge of the area, made space for a shot with a casual dummy, then found McGregor's bottom left corner with a precise clip from 18 yards.
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It was an elegant goal of the type Chelsea had been trying to score all afternoon without success, Hull's defenders usually managing to get a foot in to break up the interpassing between Hazard, Oscar and Willian.
Hull inevitably tired, however, not only in defence but attack. Without summoning much urgency Chelsea were the only side threatening in the final quarter, and Oscar and Willian combined effectively to almost bring a second goal before Torres scored, Curtis Davies making a block at the last moment to prevent Oscar capitalising on an unselfish pull-back. Torres struck four minutes from time, taking Willian's pass and taking on Alex Bruce, who backed away to leave the striker room for a shot.
Torres had barely been involved in the previous 80-odd minutes, but that is what top strikers do.
Both managers agreed Hazard was the best player on the field, Mourinho even expressing disappointment he had missed out on the player of the month award. "I don't know why they don't like him because he's not just a talented kid anymore," the Chelsea manager said. "He's a fantastic team player and his form at the moment is exceptional."
There has been some speculation over Hazard's future in recent days, with Mourinho stating the Belgian international would not be leaving the club.
He reiterated that stance yesterday. "The club made that decision because every manager wants a player like him," said the Portuguese coach. "I'm not expecting to put too much pressure on him or for him to be the man of the match every game, but what I expect from him is his motivation, his commitment, his responsibility."