Thursday 26 April 2018

First-half blitz sees Blues maul Hull

Chelsea 4 Hull City 0

Chelsea's Emerson Palmieri and Hull City's Nouha Dicko. Photo: PA
Chelsea's Emerson Palmieri and Hull City's Nouha Dicko. Photo: PA

Miguel Delaney

It was one of those nights when everything finally went right for Chelsea, and just at the right time ahead of a seismic Champions League match against Barcelona.

Sure, this 4-0 FA Cup fifth-round win over Hull City might have been from a makeshift team, but it still allowed them to make up for a lot that had been going wrong of late.

Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas concedes a penalty against Hull City's Harry Wilson. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea's Cesc Fabregas concedes a penalty against Hull City's Harry Wilson. Photo: Reuters

This was instead one of those nights when there was nothing to worry about, when a new striker opened his account, when new young players got on the pitch.

There was even the extra bonus that Olivier Giroud's maiden goal for Chelsea was set up by debutant Emerson Palmieri.

That close-range effort ensured the champions had been four ahead by half-time, having been 1-0 up within just two minutes, as Willian hit that opening goal in a brilliant individual display.

Antonio Conte had maybe given away some of his plans for Barca since Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kante, Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Victor Moses and Thibaut Courtois were not in the squad for this game, but it didn't mean his side gave up anything in this game.

Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi in action. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea's Callum Hudson-Odoi in action. Photo: Reuters

Not even the start of the game could have been better, nor the quality of the opening goal. Within a mere minute and a half of the match starting, Willian took control of the ball on the edge of the Hull box and brilliantly curled it into the corner of the net.

Of course, from that kind of advantage, and in this kind of game when the champions were at home, it was always going to amount to an effective training session; an evening when Chelsea's attackers could really express themselves.

Many around Stamford Bridge might say that's been long coming, but it didn't take long for the second goal to arrive. That was duly artistic, duly expressive, duly joyful to watch.

Cesc Fabregas picked up the ball in his own half and - as tends to happen when a midfield creator of that quality is afforded that kind space - gloriously picked his curved pass, to put Pedro clean trough on goal. The forward easily made it 2-0.

Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. Photo: Reuters
Chelsea manager Antonio Conte. Photo: Reuters

Willian then so archly made it 3-0, with a shot that didn't look like it had any right to go in.

The Brazilian again found himself on the edge of the Hull box, but this time went low and not particularly hard. The ball didn't actually seem to have enough on it to make it past David Marshall, but it was so well placed that it so exquisitely rolled off the post and in. Marshall was really never going to get across enough to save it.

Then the came the moment everyone had really been waiting for: a Giroud goal.

All the more pleasingly, it was the other late signing that set it up, as Palmieri got a debut assist. He burst into the box and squared for the French forward to so easily finish.

Even when Chelsea gave away a penalty it only resulted in another positive, as Willy Caballero so well saved from David Meyler.

Hull City's Michael Dawson shows his disappointment. Photo: Reuters
Hull City's Michael Dawson shows his disappointment. Photo: Reuters

It did seem like a somewhat harsh decision. Fabregas had admittedly stuck his foot out in the box but, even before there was contact, Harry Wilson had trailed his leg to make sure there was indeed contact.

Referee Andre Marriner signalled a penalty, but the problem was Meyler pretty much signposted where he was going.

Conte then gave a further sense of how he might be thinking for Tuesday by bringing off Giroud - now maybe the more likely starter - for Alvaro Morata.

© Independent News Service, London

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