Chelsea followed up the weirdest game of the young season with a match that was merely fairly weird. Beating Swansea by two goals at Stamford Bridge is a fairly predictable result, but what made this game bizarre was how it happened -- the Blues got played off the park for 25 minutes, were lucky not to be down by two or three, then got themselves off the floor and systematically dismantled the visitors for what ended up as a 4-2 win.
Although Willian and Ramires got starts at Everton, Jose Mourinho went back to the team that beat Leicester City and Burnley in the opening two games of the season. That meant André Schürrle and Oscar, and it also, briefly, invited disaster.
The Swans completely dominated the opening exchanges, exploiting a half-hearted Chelsea press that opened up huge holes in the midfield. Wayne Routledge gave us an early scare when he hammered a weak John Terry clearance just over the bar, but it didn't take long for them to find the net. Nemanja Matic, for reasons unknown, went on a merry jaunt to nowhere, lost possession, and eventually allowed the visitors to work the ball to Routledge on the left. One low cross and one ridiculous, off-balance attempted clearance later, and Swansea had a 1-0 lead, with John Terry the unfortunate scorer.
Match reports will say that the goal was a wakeup call for Chelsea. It wasn't -- Swansea scored in the 11th minute and we had a very long wait before the Blues looked even remotely confident. The midfield was out of sorts, with Matic and Schürrle looking particularly vulnerable, and the visitors put us under so much pressure that we had serious problems even holding the ball.
Swansea could and probably should have added to their lead. We were being mauled almost everywhere on the pitch and that we were only down by a goal was more luck than anything else. A change needed to happen, and happen quickly.
Eden Hazard was hauled off to one side by the manager and it perhaps is not coincidental that the Belgian was the one who took the steps required to get back into the game. His direct running at the heart of Swansea's defence was ultimately what to took to knock our guests off-balance, forcing them to abandon a high pressing game for what turned into a desperate defensive action.
And so with half an hour gone, Hazard-led Chelsea finally stopped looking like an abused puppy hiding in a corner and more like a world class football team. The pressure ramped up, and the equaliser arrived just before the break. It was, of course supplied by Diego Costa, who was in turn supplied by Cesc Fabregas -- Swansea failed to deal with a corner kick and Costa was able to get enough power on his header to sneak the ball past the flailing Lukasz Fabianski.
Schürrle was hauled off for Ramires at halftime, and the match was never again in much doubt. Chelsea spent most of the second half blitzing the Swansea box and swiftly got their noses in front, with Costa flicking home after superb work by Fabregas and Hazard demolished the visitors' defence. There was a scare along the way when Bafetimbi Gomis (who was giving Gary Cahill an exceptionally difficult time) got free, but his chip attempt went well wide and let the Blues get back to business.
Hazard and Oscar were seemingly intent on padding the lead, but it was Ramires who provided the assist for the third goal. Having received the ball on the edge of the box, the Brazilian produced a very un-Brazialian shot, scuffing his effort into the six yard box, but the mis-hit served as a perfect disguised pass for Costa, who fired home for his seventh(!) Premier League goal in four games.
The hattrick hero went off shortly there after for Loïc Rémy to make his debut, which has to be deemed a success after he too found the net. Most of the credit for the strike, however, has to go to Hazard, who opened up the defence with an awe-inspiring run before finding himself in a corner and passing for Oscar, who in turn set up Rémy's goal.
With a 4-1 lead, Chelsea were playing as flashily as they could, but Jonjo Shelvey quite rudely interrupted the party when a free ball from Wilfried Bony saw the midfielder race clear of the defence and lift the ball past Thibaut Courtois. It wasn't enough to make for a nervy ending, but it did sour the festive atmosphere somewhat, and the Blues were content to hold on for a 4-2 victory.