Chelsea ensured that their Champions League campaign got off to a better start than their domestic season as they saw off Maccabi Tel-Aviv at Stamford Bridge. Goals from Willian, Oscar, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas helped the Blues to three points, which sent them top of Group G, albeit after just the opening round of matches.
Jose Mourinho made some big changes from the game on Saturday, which could be seen as rotation or dropping some underperformers. Gary Cahill came in for John Terry, while Branislav Ivanovic dropped to the bench for Abdul Baba Rahman, who made his debut. Rueben Loftus-Cheek came in for Matic, while Loic Remy took the place of Diego Costa.
Chelsea didn’t make the best start, and it seemed like the team were still affected by their recent poor league results. They were always expected to win here, but they toiled to make the breakthrough in the early stages. They were handed a great chance when Willian was brought down in the box, but Eden Hazard skied the following penalty.
After seeing the Belgian’s effort, you could forgive the home support for thinking they would be in for another uncomfortable evening. But, the Premier League champions finally got some luck, as Willian’s free kick tricked everyone, including the goalkeeper, and it put the hosts ahead. The Brazilian made a flying start, but he was forced off less than 10 minutes after scoring, with Costa replacing him.
The Spanish forward was involved in the second goal, as he was fouled in the box, which gave the hosts a second chance from the penalty spot. Oscar stepped up on this occasion, and he blasted the ball home to double the lead. It was good to see the Brazilian on the scoresheet, but it likely didn’t do much for Hazard’s confidence.
Costa then got a goal himself, as he volleyed home a spectacular effort from a Fabregas pass. It was good to see those two back to doing what they do best, we’ll need more of that if Mourinho’s men are to go far in this competition. It was also Costa’s first Champions League goal for Chelsea.
Fabregas then got himself on the scoresheet late on, capping off a much needed good display. The Spaniard has been below par since late last season, so seeing him return to his best is a welcome sight. That goal wrapped up a morale boosting win for the hosts, and saw them go clear at the top of the group. It was certainly a game to remember for Loftus-Cheek, who was fantastic in central midfield.
Next up is a tricky home game against Arsenal on Saturday lunchtime. While this was only Maccabi Tel-Aviv, that win and performance should be a big lift ahead of that game. With the Gunners losing in Croatia in their Champions League game, Mourinho’s side could have a slight edge going in to this one.
LCN Man of the Match: Rueben Loftus-Cheek