Chelsea 4-1 Cardiff: 6 Things We Learned
Chelsea returned to Premier League action at Stamford Bridge with a 4-1 win against Cardiff City on Saturday. Away fixtures and the international break meant that this was the first game for almost a month in front of the home crowd, and it took a shaky start to fire them into action.
Cardiff were hassling the Blues as soon as the whistle blew and refused to give up any space. They were rewarded after 10 minutes when a lack of communication between Ramires, David Luiz and Petr Cech allowed Jordon Mutch to steal in and score the opener.
The Blues were level after half an hour under controversial circumstances. David Marshall was bouncing the ball in preparation for a clearance when Samuel Eto'o nipped in and took it past him. The Cameroonian veteran opted to pass rather than shoot, and Eden Hazard was on hand to follow up with a low strike into the bottom corner.
Jose Mourinho waited until mid-way through the second half to make his changes, bringing on Fernando Torres for Ryan Bertrand in a similar tactical switch to the one at Norwich City. It paid off again as Eto'o scored his first Chelsea goal from a Hazard assist. Oscar then scored a trademark beauty from 25 yards before Hazard got his second of the game to complete the rout.
Here are six things we learned from Mourinho's 64th Premier League victory at Stamford Bridge.
David Luiz Deserves to Stay in the Side
Rafa Benitez's decision to move David Luiz forward to a defensive midfield position was about the only thing that Chelsea fans welcomed from the Spaniard.
It is clear that Luiz lacks the reliability that the likes of Gary Cahill and John Terry inspire; however, that does not mean he should be dropped from the side. His passion certainly keeps things interesting, and he has an incredible knack for playing impossibly long passes with pinpoint accuracy.
Eden Hazard Is Back to His Best
Eden Hazard has drifted in and out of matches so far this season as he struggled to find the balance between the attacking and defensive sides of his game. He has certainly settled into his rhythm now, as his three goals and one assist in the past two fixtures attest.
Hazard is competing with another five players for three attacking midfield spots, but he has shown his value both as a starter and an impact substitute. Mourinho has made clear the importance of club form for international players, and with Belgium having secured a place at the World Cup next summer, Hazard will be looking to continue his excellent run.
Cesar Azpilicueta Needs More Game Time
Cesar Azpilicueta has been the forgotten man at Chelsea this season. After an excellent debut year during which he more than justified his £7 million fee, Branislav Ivanovic's return to the right-back spot has seen his playing time limited.
Dave was brought on for Eto'o to reinforce the back line and put in a passionate display, making four clearances and completing 86 percent of his passes.
Oscar Will Win Chelsea's Player of the Year Award
Juan Mata has won the player of the year award for two years running at Chelsea. It's still early days, but it looks likely that Oscar will prevent him from getting his hat-trick.
He had already scored three Premier League goals and grabbed another after coming off the bench against Cardiff. His all-round contribution to the team has been recognised by Mourinho, and he is reaping the rewards of his efforts.
With great skill and an eye for a wonder goal, Oscar is certainly the one to watch for the Blues this year.
Cardiff City Tried to Run the Clock Down
Cardiff City were able to capitalise on a defensive error after 10 minutes to take the lead. They were defending well and hassling Chelsea off the ball, but every throw in and free-kick took an age as they tried to run down the clock.
Although Mourinho was sent to the stands, Cardiff were undone by his tactical changes in the second half and failed to find a reply in the four minutes added at the end of the 90.
Jose Mourinho Isn't Happy Any More
In his first press conference, via BBC, after returning to Chelsea, Mourinho dubbed himself "The Happy One." He also claimed that he is a much calmer man than the one who had to hide in a laundry basket in his previous tenure.
From the looks of it, he might have jumped the gun.
Mourinho spent the match berating the officials' lack of action over the Cardiff players' time-wasting antics and was sent to the stands after a particularly impassioned outburst. The supporters rallied 'round their manager with a chorus of "He sits where he wants," but The Special One still declined to attend the post-match press conference.
Love him or hate him, nobody can deny that it's great to have him back in the Premier League.