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Chelsea 2-1 Hull


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scoreboard.jpgSaturday 15th August 2009, FA Premier League, Stamford Bridge, West London

It may not have been the same beautiful, flowing football that accompanied the 4-0 demolition of Portsmouth twelve months ago in Luiz Felipe Scolari’s first game in charge of Chelsea, but the first fixture under the tutelage of Carlo Ancelotti ended in a similar fashion thanks to a brace from the ever-reliable Didier Drogba.

It was a fascinating opening match for the 2009/2010 Premier League season, with massive underdogs Hull City taking an unexpected first-half lead through Stephen Hunt after a fortunate ricochet found the former Reading winger unmarked in the penalty area. Didier’s Drogba’s stunning freekick levelled matters for Chelsea, and only stunning Boaz Myhill saves denied Michael Essien, Nicolas Anelka and Jose Bosingwa from handing the hosts the lead.

But with two minutes of injury time played, a frustrated Chelsea found their deserved winner through Drogba, who’s cross-shot from inside the area looped over Myhill and nestled in the bottom corner. Whilst the scoreline and the lateness of Chelsea’s winner will suggest Ancelotti’s side were lucky to come away with three points, a closer inspection of the match would show that Chelsea’s endeavours throughout the match; creating opportunity after opportunity, warranted a second goal, and it was through talismanic striker Drogba that they ultimately won the match.

Phil Brown’s Hull put up a mighty display to hold Chelsea level, with Michael Turner in particularly imperious mood; denying Frank Lampard, Drogba and Anelka with last-ditch tackles inside the penalty area, and the visitor’s work ethic suggested a point may have been a fair reflection of the game. Chelsea’s quality ultimately shone through, however, and though the result is harsh on the Tigers, Chelsea were simply the better team – and a late win will no doubt please Ancelotti following a frustrating induction to the Premier League.

For his first match at Stamford Bridge, Ancelotti made just one change to the team that started the Community Shield victory over Manchester United, with Jose Bosingwa replacing Branislav Ivanovic at full-back. With Michael Essien, John Mikel Obi and Frank Lampard all starting in midfield in the Chelsea coach’s trademark 4-1-2-1-2 formation, there was a distinctive strong look to the Blues’ starting eleven; especially with Drogba and Anelka beginning up front alongside each other.

Hull fielded debutant Stephen Hunt – notoriously known amongst Chelsea fans for that challenge on Petr Cech which left the Chelsea goalkeeper with a depressed fracture of the skull – and his unpopularity with the Stamford Bridge crowd was only heightened with a high challenge on Frank Lampard with barely 60 seconds on the clock.

Drogba then volleyed wide from a Bosingwa cross when found in a decent position by the Portuguese defender, and a second, more difficult effort was high and wide from the left boot of the Ivorian. John Mikel Obi then launched a rasping drive a couple of feet wide of Myhill’s upright, whilst at the other end, Hull skipper George Boateng’s shot went wide of the post.

John Terry then headed over a presentable chance for the hosts before at the other end; Dean Marney was offered an opportunity to give the Tigers the lead but flashed his header wide. Boateng then forced a good save out of Cech as the game was played at break-neck pace.

The best move of the first half was by Chelsea, when Malouda’s right-footed effort was blocked by a desperate lunge by Turner, after clever play between Lampard, Mikel and Drogba had found the Frenchman in a shooting position outside the box. The following corner was ultimately fruitless as Essien headed wide when found at the far post, but Chelsea were visibly turning the heat up on Hull.

Then, the unthinkable happened. For all of Chelsea’s possession and territorial advantage, they had yet to score – and they fell behind to a goal from Hunt, who celebrated in front of the Shed End. There was a massive slice of luck involved as the ball broke loose to the Irishman, who couldn’t miss from six yards with Cech helpless following the most unfortunate of bounces off of Bosingwa.

But just nine minutes later, following a foul by Dawson on John Mikel Obi, Drogba swept home a magical equaliser with a beautiful, bending freekick that dipped over the wall and nestled in the bottom corner with Myhill completely beaten. It was a special goal by the striker, and the edginess around Stamford Bridge was suddenly devoured by an almighty roar of celebration. The Ivorian had opened the Ancelotti era with his first of the season, and all of a sudden, things looked much rosier for Roman Abramovich’s football club.

Drogba then pivoted on the spot; spinning with the ball and unleashing a ferocious effort that Myhill did well to hold, before a dipping Essien volley from the edge of the area was stopped by assured handling by the Welsh goalkeeper, especially with Malouda in the close vicinity looking for the keeper to spill the ball. The Ghanaian then had another effort saved by Myhill late in the half, but this shot was too close to the Hull shot-stopper, who clutched the ball with two grateful hands.

Nicolas Anelka played centre stage at the start of the second period, and only a fine tackle by Andy Dawson prevented the Frenchman a clear run at goal only moments after he had seen a low shot brilliantly saved by Myhill at point-blank range. Myhill then denied Drogba with a stunning reaction save and only excellent tackles denied efforts from both Lampard and Carvalho. Chelsea had started the second half in tremendous fashion, but the Hull goalkeeper was enjoying a faultless performance between the posts.

John Terry was offering nothing to the Hull forwards with a solid defensive display, and it was he, along with fellow defender Ricardo Carvalho, who were beginning many of Chelsea’s second half moves. Deco soon came on to join fellow substitute Michael Ballack, who had added much guile and solidarity into the Chelsea midfield since his half-time introduction; replacing Mikel.

Essien then cracked a stunning volley inches wide of the near post with Myhill scrambling; had it have gone in, parallels of his goal against Barcelona in last season’s Champions League would have surely been made. Bosingwa then teased himself into a shooting position, and only a strong left wrist denied the Portuguese his first Chelsea goal since November.

Salomon Kalou entered the fray and headed over a Deco cross before Ballack had a rasping drive deflected over off of Turner’s forehead, before Carvalho headed a Lampard corner over as Chelsea looked to take the lead. Deco shot wide of the post with a curling effort whilst at the other end, Cech excelled to first clear a Geovanni cross before leaning back to push a deflected Folan cross over the bar, when it looked to be dipping over the Blues goalkeeper.

But there was still time for Drogba to score a deserved winner; exchanging passes with Deco, the Ivorian sped into the box and launched a cross towards the back post, but his chipped effort instead flew over Myhill and into the back of the net. It may have looked deliberate, but a smiling Drogba later admitted that it was a cross to Kalou at the back post – and his Ivorian teammate looked to have extended Chelsea’s lead with a stunning late drive, only for it to fly wide of the post.

It wasn’t as easy as most expected, but Ancelotti will without doubt accept three points in his first game in charge of the club. Roll on Sunderland.


Chelsea: Cech, Bosingwa Carvalho, Terry ©, A Cole; Mikel (Ballack); Essien, Malouda (Deco); Lampard; Anelka (Kalou), Drogba

Hull: Myhill; Dawson, Gardner, Turner, Mouyokolo; Mendy (Geovanni), Marney (Barmby), Olofinjana, Boateng ©, Hunt (Ghilas); Folan

Attendance: 41, 597

The TalkChelsea.net Man of the Match was Chelsea’s number 11; Didier Drogba


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