Chelsea returned to winning ways in the Barclays Premier League with a comfortable 2-0 victory over 10-man Hull City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.
Jose Mourinho's side suffered their first defeat of the season at Newcastle United last weekend, but looked back to their best early on as Eden Hazard headed them into a seventh-minute lead.
The hosts' early promise fizzled out, however, with chances few and far between for both sides for much of the encounter.
But Tom Huddlestone was given his marching orders on the hour mark for catching Filipe Luis with his studs, and Chelsea soon pounced to double their advantage - Diego Costa diverting the ball beyond goalkeeper Allan McGregor eight minutes later.
The victory sees Chelsea maintain their three-point advantage over second-placed Manchester City, while Hull - now without a win in nine - remain in the bottom three.
Chelsea reverted to a more familiar starting XI after making a number of changes for their UEFA Champions League win over Sporting Lisbon on Wednesday, and it was two of those returning stars who unlocked the visitors' defence with ease in the seventh minute.
Oscar was given time on the left wing to pick out the advancing Hazard with a precision cross, and the unchallenged Belgian rose well to power home a header.
The goal was Hazard's 65th in league football, but only his second header.
Hull were dealt a further blow when Michael Dawson was forced off through injury three minutes after Hazard's goal.
Steve Bruce's men were struggling to keep possession, and Petr Cech - making his first BPL start of the season in place of the injured Thibaut Courtois - was a spectator for long spells, with Sone Aluko blasting over Hull's first opening after 20 minutes.
Hull did eventually settle, limiting their hosts' attacking opportunities, but offered little going forward as Chelsea comfortably sat on their one-goal advantage.
Jake Livermore sent a low drive trickling wide of the left-hand upright as Hull looked to make a positive start to the second period, but their task got considerably tougher on the hour mark when Huddlestone was dismissed for a clumsy challenge on home left-back Filipe Luis.
James Chester's handball in the penalty area soon after went unpunished, before Chelsea made the most of their man advantage.
Hazard found Costa with a well-worked throughball, and the Spain international prodded past McGregor to double the hosts’ lead.
Hull rarely looked like hauling themselves back into the tie in the closing 20 minutes, and the focus will now switch to ensuring their winless run does not hit double figures at home to Swansea City next weekend.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: "It was not a special performance, it was just a good enough performance.
"We were never in trouble. The 10 against 11 didn't change the game. As always Steve's team was very well organised, made it difficult but we scored early and I think the team felt quite comfortable and we never felt any danger.
"Eden Hazard is a great kid and he had a chance to rest midweek, so today we could see his freshness and it's always good to have on the pitch a player like him. John Obi Mikel also had a very positive performance. Once more a big player for us didn't play - this time Fabregas - and the people who replaced him assumed responsibility.
"It didn't look like a physical game. The direct red card I didn't see on TV, I have no idea. The yellow cards, again from my position, it's difficult to judge but I give the referee the doubt. We spoke last season about simulation because we had a situation last season and I was the first one to say to Oscar, against Southampton, that he has to stay on his feet, but the reality is that many players from other teams do that too much.
"In Chelsea we are clean. Willian was in the middle of the pitch, so not even a reason to dive, and I don't think Diego's is a dive."
Hull manager Steve Bruce: "Today sums up our season. We could have been five or six points better off. I'm still convinced we've got a squad good enough. He [Dawson] has felt it [his hamstring] very, very quickly, so it looks like one of them that could be at least a month to six weeks.”
|22 Dec 2014||v Stoke (A)|
|26 Dec 2014||v West Ham (H)|
|28 Dec 2014||v Southampton (A)|
|01 Jan 2015||v Spurs (A)|
|10 Jan 2015||v Newcastle (H)|
|17 Jan 2015||v Swansea (A)|