WIGAN 0-2 CHELSEA
Ok, so it was neither a goal-fest nor an edge-of-your-seat thriller, but then what can you expect on the first day of our season?
Given how we’d looked at times pre-season, I was pretty happy to get a comfortable win. Yes, we got lazy and rode it a bit at times but so what? Better that than knock ourselves out needlessly or worse still, have the sort of first day Liverpool, Spurs and QPR fans suffered. With 3 games to be played in quick succession, I don’t think there’s much to complain about really.
If anything, Hazard gave us plenty to celebrate on his Premier League debut and even Oscar’s brief appearance was inspiring given he’s not exactly rested. Ramires had disappeared from the squad fairly late through illness, so with Mata on the right, Hazard had a bit of a free-role and he was a delight to watch. If his first game is anything to go by when the side haven’t fully got into their stride, then things are looking decent on an attacking front for us.
Just 110 seconds into the game, a semi-inducing turn and pass from Hazard, showing our new signing has vision as well as the skill to back it up, had Ivanovic thanking his lucky stars the Community Shield red was wiped out last week, as he took it well to finish the move in the manner it deserved. In the 7th minute, we’d scored again with a Frank Lampard penalty – his 40th taken in the Premier League and 37th slotted home – but again, it was Hazard who assisted, drawing the foul from Ramis in the area. In fact, how Wigan didn’t give away more was the real question on the day – they potentially could and possibly should have.
Hazard was clearly too much for Wigan to handle and they dished out a ‘welcome to the Premier League’ Wimbledon style as he frustrated them time and again with the ball apparently Velcro-ed to his foot. His link-up play with Juan Mata was pretty impressive this early on as well by the way. Unsurprisingly though, seeing as it’s Chelsea, with the exception of Hazard, we took our foot off the pedal at 2-0 and Wigan to their credit, took that as permission to give us a game.
They did get a couple of chances, with Victor Moses taking the opportunity to acquaint himself with the keeper he’ll be facing in training before too long – and finding Petr Cech more than up to the task. The 21 year old made enough of a nuisance of himself though to demonstrate why he’s likely to be on our books before the end of the month.
One of our former players came close for Wigan as well, getting the ball past Cech only for David Luiz – yes the same David Luiz slated just days ago for sloppiness – to clear off the line. Mind you, Torres would know how Franco Di Santo feels, having seen some last ditch defending from Ramis clearing his own effort before it could hit the net in the 63rd minute.
Oscar got about 25 minutes to impress – and almost managed to do just that as soon as he hit the pitch, sprinting past Ramis and hitting a shot just wide of the far post. I’m telling you, we’ve got some bloody good, young talent now! Gomez and Kone had chances but we held on to the 2 goal cushion we’d made for ourselves very early on and continued our record of no opening day defeats since 1998.
Overall then, there’ll be sterner tests to come but the early signs suggest we also have the players to dish out a few tests ourselves.
WIGAN: Al-Habsi, Caldwell, Alcaraz, Ramis, Boyce, Figueroa, McArthur (Watson, 80), McCartney, Moses, Maloney (Gomez, 48), Di Santo (Kone, 67).
Unused Subs: Pollitt, Jones, Crusat, Boselli
CHELSEA: Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, Cole; Lampard, Mikel; Hazard (Oscar, 64), Mata (Meireles, 82), Bertrand; Torres.
Unused Subs: Turnbull, Cahill, Ferreira, Essien, Sturridge.
CHELSEA: Ivanovic 2, Lampard (pen) 7