Jose Mourinho's return to the Premier League got off to a fine start thanks to goals from Oscar and Frank Lampard. While the second was a thing of beauty, a long-range free kick that wrapped up the points for Chelsea with less than a third of the match played, it's the opener that deserves more attention from a tactical point of view, illustrating perfectly the approach by which the Blues tormented Hull City in the early stages of the game.
The story begins with a foul by Yannick Sagbo on Ramires, deep in the Chelsea half, but we'll pick things up with John Terry on the ball some moments later. Hull, wisely afraid of over-committing, opted to let the captain have plenty of time on the ball, set their pressing trigger in their own half and had Danny Graham split between the two centre backs. That leaves Terry room to pick out a pass.
His choice is a vertical to Eden Hazard, who was making an explosive run to the corner away from his man, right back Ahmed Elmohamady. The Belgian cuts in behind right centre back James Chester, who a) is out of position having followed Oscar to a wide area and b) reacts late.
This forces Curtis Davies, who should be holding the left side of the defence, to give chase -- allowing Hazard to retrieve the ball that far into Tigers territory would have been suicidal. Elmohamady is in pursuit as well, but the fact that both central defenders are now scrambling will prove vital.
The presence of three defenders forces Hazard to cut back rather than drive into the box, and Chester wisely moves into a covering position in the center in order to cut out any passes into the penalty area. Hull should have been in good shape here, but instead their defence is a complete mess -- Davies is not getting in position fast enough (and is breaking the line besides), and although midfielder Robert Koren had tracked Oscar's run forward, there is still a gaping hole for Chelsea to exploit.
Hazard could have played a reverse ball through to Ashley Cole to set up a cross, but he picks an easier option, a pass to Kevin De Bruyne in the centre of the pitch. Chester, seeing the danger, charges out to meet the debutant, while Koren momentarily focuses his attention on the player in possession rather than the one on his shoulder. Davies is still out of position, leaving Oscar with an easy run.
The only player in any kind of position to intervene is left back Maynor Figueroa, and thanks to Fernando Torres camping out on the left side of the Hull area, even he's too far away to prevent the Brazilian converting with a toe-poke under goalkeeper Allan McGregor. Thirteen minutes into the new season, and Chelsea had a 1-0 lead.
This goal would not have happened without a horrendous mistake from Davies, who definitely has enough experience to know not to idly jog back to his original position during an ongoing attack -- it was as though he considered turning Hazard back momentarily to be the natural conclusion of his duties. But at the same time, it was also the result of a deliberate strategy that was employed time after time in the first half, which paid enormous dividends: pull the centre backs out of position with vertical movement and exploit the resultant space.
That Hazard's diagonal run also resulted in a shambolic offside line from the visitors was a very convenient bonus.