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2nd-half surge gives Chelsea the points against Leicester

Paul Gilham

This, one suspects, is the sort of game in which we'd have dropped points last season. Chelsea, fresh off a 3-1 win at Burnley, were flat out of the gates in their first home match of the season, and that made for an ugly first half. Newly-promoted Leicester weren't serious threats to score, but they were industrious, organised and looking completely capable of forcing a dour 0-0 draw. Which would have been annoying.

Fortunately the Blues turned on the jets in the second half, opening up the game and (thanks to some superb goalkeeping by Thibaut Courtois) seeing off the threat of the Foxes' counterattack for long enough to score a couple of their own. Goals from Diego Costa and Eden Hazard were enough to turn the match into a laugher by the 77th minute, and Chelsea eventually claimed a fairly comfortable 2-0 win.

It's tempting to start a match report at half time, considering that essentially nothing was happening for the first 45 minutes. Chelsea had a few half-chances from set pieces, had a couple of snap-shots deflected over and had a few worrying moments after Leicester managed to get behind the fullbacks. Mostly we were struggling in midfield, where the visitors had a freakish ability to pick up fifty-fifty balls, keeping us under pressure and making it very difficult to hold possession for any length of time.

After halftime, Chelsea, presumably chastened rather thoroughly by the manager, came out to play. There was more action in the first five minutes of the second half than there was in the whole first. Oscar provided a measure of magic, rattling Kasper Schmeichel's left-hand post with a sneaky shot from the top of the box before the goalkeeper was called into action by Branislav Ivanovic's flying header.

It was a positive change for Chelsea, but it brought some unwanted consequences. The drive forward was matched by an openness at the back, and some lackadaisical play in midfield twice left Leicester free on goal. But Courtois was more than up for the challenge, kicking away Paul Konchesky's effort and smothering David Nugent's attempt three minutes later. On saves like this, the game turns.

He wasn't the only goalkeeper pulling off some great stops, however. Schmeichel had an excellent game, staying tall to deny Cesc Fabregas' dainty close-range lob and beating away a powerful effort from Ivanovic, who had a magnificent performance from right back. Indeed, the Serbian turned out to be the key to breaking down the visiting defence.

Running behind Liam Moore, Ivanovic picked up a clever pass from Oscar and briefly seemed prime to shoot from eight yards out. But instead he came up with an audacious dummy, flooring a pair of defenders before working a cross towards Andre Schürrle and Diego Costa. The ball made its way to the second via a significant bobble, and Costa calmly controlled on his chest, completely ignored Schmeichel's desperate, flailed attempt at a clearance, and poked in. 1-0 Chelsea.

It should have been more a little way after when Costa broke free on the left, but the striker delayed his cross to Ivanovic streaking down the opposite channel and Schmeichel was able to gather. But that mistake turned out not to matter that much: Hazard was around to kill off the game.

It's a time-honoured tradition for Chelsea players to get assists by passing to the Belgian in unpromising positions and watching him single-handedly eviscerate defences, and Fabregas joined in by feeding him on the left. A hop, skip and several steps later, and Hazard was in shooting position; an attempted block only succeeded in deflecting his right-footed effort past Schmeichel and in.

Jose Mourinho decided a two-goal cushion was enough to pull off Costa, giving us all a lovely moment as Didier Drogba emerged onto the sun-drenched pitch. It was his return to Stamford Bridge in Chelsea colours, and everyone (even the owner) gave him the rapturous applause he deserved. The only slight downer was that he wasn't able to score -- he came reasonably close a couple of times but wasn't quite able to find the net. Perhaps that's a good thing for London-based seismologists.

Anyway, one ten-minute cameo from a Chelsea legend later, we had all three points. Six from six is a decent way to start the season, and although there are plenty of questions to be asked, we're perfect so far.

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