Blues Bounce Back On Opening Day To Defeat Hull
The 2009-2010 Barclay's Premier League season kicked off on Saturday afternoon when Hull traveled to Stamford Bridge to take on the Premier League's third place finishers from last season, Chelsea.
For fans in the United States, this was truly a landmark match. In a deal struck with Fox Sports International late Friday night saw the network acquire the rights to 48 Premier League matches for this coming season.
And true to the quality one has come to expect from a Premiership match, the 6:30 a.m. wake up call for this author was not in vain.
Testy For Former Milan Boss
Carlo Ancelotti became the fifth manager in the two years to take the helm at Stamford Bridge, and pundits are contemplating if a slow start for the Italian will see him gone by the midpoint of the season.
And in the early going, it seemed that things were not guaranteed to go the former Milan boss's way.
Two early attempts by Didier Drogba were sent wide and high, respectively, of Hull keeper Boaz Myhill.
Then, on 28 minutes, Hull's newest signing, Stephen Hunt, opened the scoring. Petr Cech was found on the pitch after a scramble near the top of the six yard box.
The deflection from a shot by Hull captain George Boateng fell into the path of the former Reading striker who caught the downed Cech with a simple finish to take the early lead.
Despite being greeted with jeers by Chelsea fans over his clash with Petr Cech two seasons ago that resulted in the Chelsea keeper's fractured skull, Hunt celebrated the only goal that Hull would see in the match.
The joy of the shot would be short lived for the Tigers, who are enjoying only their second season in the top flight of English football.
Didier Drogba, who recently signed a three-year contract extension that will likely keep him at the London club through the end of his career, leveled just nine minutes later.
The Ivorian international's goal came off a well-struck free kick from 25 yards. The shot dipped past a diving Myhill causing Stamford Bridge to erupt into celebration.
The awarding of the free kick by referee Alan Wiley will likely be questioned by Hull fans.
Seyi Olofinjana, an attacking midfielder, moved in on Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi. The brief contention of the ball was settled when Boateng moved in to assist Olofinjana, drawing the foul and the free kick.
In all, the opening half of the game proved to be even goings for both sides. However, apart from the opening two attempts by Drogba, Chelsea were bogged down by an aggressive Hull offense and defense.
Looking Toward A Draw
The second half began just as the first half had with just minor changes by both squad.
Hull replaced Dean Marney, who suffered an injury while going in for a challenge just before the first half ended. He was subbed out for Nick Barmby.
Chelsea also made their first change, removing Mikel Obi for Michael Ballack.
Within the first minute of the half, Nicolas Anelka made a valid attempt on goal, only to see the shot spent at the legs of Myhill.
This initial attack was met by fettered attempts from Chelsea to secure the go-ahead-goal—but Hull, lead by the excellent goalkeeping of Boaz Myhill, fought off the siege and cleared the ball.
The release of tension off of the Hull defense looked to be rewarded by a Hunt cross to a well-placed Caleb Folan.
The perfectly placed cross came to the striker close to eight yards from the goal line. Rather than take the glory for himself, Folan headed the ball sideways to a non-existent teammate, allowing Chelsea to clear away the hopes of securing the winning goal.
The announcement of six minutes of extra time brought a glimmer of hope to both sides though.
It would be Chelsea that would seize upon the extra time, with a well-placed chip by Drogba that floated over Myhill and sealed the Blues win.
Hull, who were one point shy of relegation at the end of the previous season, came into Stamford Bridge, and nearly stunned a confident Chelsea side.
It is a positive message from a team who started their campaign last year on a hot streak only to see it fall apart as the season progressed.
Chelsea, the likely contenders to dethrone Manchester United, spent the better part of the game in an uneasy tension that should have been easily set aside. However, the side played a timid first match that does not do their new coach justice.
It's too early in the season to write off Hull, especially with Myhill in goal. Drogba received the man of the match award for his two goals, but Myhill deserved equal praise for the pressure he faced in goal today.
Chelsea, on the other hand, will have an uphill climb this season. While it is not likely that they will approach all their matches the way they did today, the threat of a draw strikes one as eerily reminiscent of last season. This could lead to a repeat in the pattern of the revolving door of managers at Chelsea, and another third place finish.
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