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Chelsea moved to the top of the Barclays Premier League as Eden Hazard and Fernando Torres scored in a 2-0 victory at Hull City.
After a goalless first half, Hazard broke the deadlock 11 minutes into the second period with a low drive beyond Allan McGregor, who had an otherwise impressive game in Hull's goal. Torres then got the better of Alex Bruce three minutes from time to burst into the danger area and slide the ball beyond the Scotland goalkeeper to make sure of the points. The win is Chelsea's fifth in a row in all competitions and, with Manchester City and Arsenal not playing until Sunday and Monday respectively, puts them atop the English top flight.
Steve Bruce made just a single change to the side who lost 2-0 to Liverpool last time out in the Barclays Premier League, George Boyd coming in for captain Robert Koren, While Jose Mourinho gave Oscar and Willian starts after starring substitute outings at Southampton on New Year's Day.
Ahmed Elmohamady had the first chance of the match for Hull in the seventh minute, with Petr Cech getting down well to gather the Egyptian's dipping effort from 25 yards.
It was the hosts who had the better chances throughout the opening half hour with Cech into action once again in the 22nd minute, pushing the ball around his left-hand post from a 20-yard Jake Livermore strike, while Yannick Sagbo wasted a gilt-edged chance after George Boyd charged down an attempted John Terry pass in the Chelsea penalty area.
Chelsea worked their way back into the contest and Oscar squandered a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock for the visitors in the 33rd minute, drawing a superb save from McGregor after receiving the ball somewhat fortuitously from a deflected Hazard cutback.
And Scotland international McGregor had to be alert again on the stroke of half-time as a well-struck Luiz free-kick required a touch over the crossbar, before a second set-piece from the Brazilian after the break was again stopped by the 31-year-old.
But it was Hazard who eventually netted the first goal of the match in the 56th minute, delaying his shot on the edge of the penalty area before rifling an effort into the bottom right-hand corner for his ninth Premier League goal of the season, equalling his tally from last term.
With hull struggling to find a response, Torres extinguished their hopes of salvaging a point in the 87th minute, taking the ball beyond Bruce to slot the ball into the bottom right-hand corner, scoring in consecutive Premier League games for the first time since December 2012.
And Chelsea cruised to the full-time whistle to secure their fourth clean sheet in five outings - taking Cech past Peter Bonetti's club record.
Hull manager Steve Bruce: "The season's never going to be defined by games against Chelsea. But over the last few months - especially against the big boys - we've kept the ball better and played better as a team. [In the] first half we were OK, but second half we were nowhere near posing Chelsea a threat.
"Hazard, who was for me the best player on the pitch, scores a wonder goal for them and after that it became a very difficult afternoon. We're disappointed in that, but it's not going to define our season. We've made a hell of a start to life in the Premier League, so let's hope that continues."
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: "It was another good performance - very stable, very calm. In the first half they controlled us very well and defended well. They changed their system to adapt to us: they pressed a lot, they were compact, so we couldn't create a lot of chances, but we didn't open up too much or get frustrated.
"We never lost our balance, we kept our shape tactically, and we didn't give them opportunities to score. In the second half when we had a little bit more of the ball we intensified the game and recovered the ball higher, so I think normally the tendency would be for a goal.
"After that goal I was happy because we were in control, we didn't go to defend. We controlled the game well, and the second goal for us was more likely than a goal for them, and when we scored the second goal it was game over.
"[Hazard] is playing very well for a long time. The club made a big investment in him last year because they trust him a lot. He is more than just a talented kid now. He feels and accepts the responsibility, accepts that a team player is more than a talented player.
"Do we like to be leaders? Yes, we like, but maybe tomorrow we are second and maybe Monday we are third. The important thing is that we all know we are going in the right direction."
|18 Jan 2014||v Norwich (A)|
|28 Jan 2014||v Crystal Palace (A)|
|01 Feb 2014||v Spurs (H)|
|08 Feb 2014||v Sunderland (A)|
|11 Feb 2014||v Southampton (H)|
|22 Feb 2014||v Cardiff (A)|