Chelsea have overcome a slow start to defeat Hull City 2-0 at the KC Stadium on Saturday.
This result was a much needed one for the Blues who were in danger of slipping into mid-table, but now sit five points behind the flawless Manchester City and one point out of the top four.
The Blues started slowly, with Robert Snodgrass coming very close early to opening the scoring. However the class Antonio Conte’s side possesses in his starting XI as well as his bench proved to be too strong.
Characterised by a man of the match performance from Victor Moses, with goals from Willian and Diego Costa, the game also showed Hull’s defensive frailties, something that may ultimately be their downfall.
Conte shows managerial nous
In a gutsy move, the Italian dropped both Branislav Ivanovic and Cesc Fabregas from the team that lost 3-0 at the Emirates six days earlier, as well as keeping Oscar on the bench.
Handing a debut start to left-back Marcos Alonso and a first since May 2013 to Moses, Conte showed his ability to adapt to different games as well as a willingness to drop big names to get a result.
Alonso and Moses proved important inclusions and that, combined with the superb form of Costa and Eden Hazard, saw Chelsea tough out the three points they needed to get their season back on track.
Toothless Tigers a worry
With only three shots on target for the whole 90 minutes, striker Dieumerci Mbokani seemed to be helpless up front despite putting in a good shift in his first start for the club.
As has been the case all season, Snodgrass proved to be a threat from set pieces. Yet the players around him will hardly fill Tigers fans with any confidence heading into the Tigers’ next matches.
The Tigers face three ‘six-pointers’ in the next three weeks against AFC Bournemouth, Stoke City and Watford, three teams that are all looking to stave off relegation fears and push up into mid-table.
The Tigers will need to improve their attacking stocks during this period, which may force caretaker coach Mike Phelan to bring Abel Hernandez back into the starting XI.
Defence matches attacking struggles
Conceding 11 goals in the past three games is unlikely to appease fears about a lack of attacking prowess.
Defensively against Chelsea, Hull proved they can hold their own defensively, shutting the visitors out with a lack of clear-cut chances created. But this lasted just 45 minutes, with Conte’s side creating several chances in the second half – 2-0 proved flattering the hosts.
Captain Curtis Davies seemed to carry the defence on his own. Ahmed Elmohamady missed the game due to suspension, and makeshift centre-back Jake Livermore put in a performance that was exactly that – makeshift.
It is difficult to envisage Hull City anywhere other than in a relegation scrap come April.