Bridge Banter: Eden Hazard is surely Chelsea's player of the year for 2013/14
There’s an intriguing history to Chelsea v Hull fixtures, as Hull were the first visiting side to play at the Blues’ Stamford Bridge stadium at the start of the 1905 season.
That game resulted in a 5-1 win to Chelsea, but last weekend’s 2-0 victory against the Tigers was no less significant.
It had ‘banana skin’ written all over it. A lunchtime kick-off, a far-off football outpost, extra time to prepare… Extra time to prepare? For the first time in ages, players had a full week at Cobham to map out dead-ball strategies, work on overlapping moves and plan defensive formations.
But the Blues have become so used to playing three times in seven days that the luxury of factoring in relaxation and recovery time might, oddly, have thrown them.
For stretches of the first half at the KC Stadium, it looked the case. Hull came close a couple of times as Chelsea seemed to concentrate on remembering blackboard movements rather than trusting footballing instincts.
But the second half again proved golden… and goalden, with Petr Cech famously overtaking The Cat’s clean-sheet record with his 209th shut-out. Peter Bonetti’s 208 tally, which has stood since Margaret Thatcher was prime minister, was achieved over 729 games. Cech surpassed it in 458 matches.
As at Derby, Chelsea began with four Brazilians in the side. Those of us who can think back to 1980s Blues line-ups still reel at sentences like that! But it was a busy Belgian who broke the deadlock. Eden Hazard – surely the Blues’ player of 2013/14 – skipped across the box and fired an unstoppable shot into the corner of the net.
Fernando Torres added a second – a phrase which is slowly but surely sounding less surprising to utter.
It briefly hoisted Chelsea to the top of the table until Manchester City and Arsenal crept back up.
The Blues host Manchester United on Sunday afternoon for what seems destined to be a memorable game.
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