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Hull succumb to Hazardous Blues


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Eden Hazard scored and assisted a second as Chelsea dug deep to overcome Steve Bruce's resolute Hull City side.

The Tigers, now without a win in their last nine Premier League matches, recently recorded a credible 1-1 draw at Goodison Park, and their performance at Stamford Bridge certainly belies their lowly league ranking as they made it tough at times for José Mourinho's charges.

Class ultimately prevailed - Hazard netted for the fifth consecutive home league match before the Belgian then set up Diego Costa's twelfth goal in thirteen Premier League matches to seal three points from this keenly-contested tussle.

The game centred largely on the dismissal of Hull's Tom Huddlestone for a dangerous lunge on the hour-mark. Though Chelsea were leading at that point, the Blues' typically-formidable attack had been reduced to a state of relative offensive ineptitude with the loss of Cesc Fabregas to suspension keenly felt.

geAHhDG.jpgIndeed, such was Chelsea's struggle that Hazard's seventh-minute header - scored after a gorgeous cross from out wide by Oscar gave the Belgian a free header just six yards out - was the Blues' solitary shot on goal in the first period.

Hull posed little threat other than a couple of periods of sustained pressure, but the sending off of Huddlestone certainly turned the game back in Chelsea's favour, and Costa secured victory to end his mini goalscoring drought just eight minutes later.

In addition to Hull's tenacious defensive display, the Blues found their attacking endeavours blunted by the sheer incompetence of referee Chris Foy, who capped off a miserable personal performance when he failed to award Chelsea a spot-kick for an obvious handball in the penalty area by Hull's James Chester just minutes before Costa made the game safe.

Chelsea's usual attacking fluency - seen most recently in their thoroughly enjoyable defeat of Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday - was certainly missing in the absence of Fabregas, though a clever combination between Hazard and Oscar saw the Brazilian cross magnificently for Hazard to convert just the second headed goal of his career with only seven minutes played.

It was eye-of-the-needle stuff from the diminutive Brazil international, but that represented the whole of Chelsea's threat in the first half. Having secured the lead and obliterating any game plan Steve Bruce may have had in place, the Blues took their foot off the gas and looked to play on the counter-attack as the visitors pressed forward in search of an equaliser.

Petr Cech - deputising for the injured Thibaut Courtois - was barely tested as he recorded his 223rd clean sheet for Chelsea - though Hull did at least muster a number of half chances; the best of which falling to Sone Aluko who fired over from just outside the penalty area twenty minutes in.

Foy came to centre stage with a flurry of cards in the second half, quite rightly booking Willian for a poor dive before then handing out the same punishment to Costa, who was clearly bundled to the floor. Gary Cahill - arguably already lucky not to have been dismissed for a terrible challenge on Aluko earlier on - was then fortunate not to be punished when he took a tumble in the box, before Huddlestone was then shown a straight red for leaving his studs in on Filipe Luis in a hefty collision.

Officials have good games when you don't mention them. Chris Foy seemed intent on taking all the headlines in what was a disaster of a refereeing performance - and things didn't improve for Foy, who then missed a blatant handball by Chester in the box to sum up his woeful day.

Costa, clearly fired up by his earlier booking, then took matters into his own hands as he gave Chelsea an unassailable 2-0 lead against ten men. Hazard dribbled the ball from left to right before looking up and supplying the perfect through-ball for Costa to fire beyond the exposed Alan McGregor.

Chelsea substitute Andre Schurrle wasted a fine chance late on as he took too many touches when well placed in the penalty area, but the West London outfit saw out the final throes without alarm to maintain a three-point advantage over injury-stricken Manchester City, who defeated Leicester 1-0 but at great cost - with captain Vincent Kompany hobbling off with a hamstring injury.

Bruce bemoaned the referee's performance - as he should - and Chelsea's alleged diving tendencies, but the truth is his team were beaten by a side barely moving out of second gear.

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