Phew. That was a relief.
Chelsea bagged its first home win of the season on Wednesday at Stamford Bridge, as Jose Mourinho’s side put their bad start in the Premier League behind them to beat Maccabi Tel Aviv 4-0 in their UEFA Champions League opener.
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The Blues scored twice in each half to down the Israeli outfit and go top of Group G, with Willian, Oscar, Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas scoring, while Eden Hazard also missed an early penalty kick. Next up in UCL play for the Blues is a trip to Mourinho’s old club, FC Porto, while Maccabi have a vital home game against Dynamo Kiev as they aim to kick-start their first Champions League campaign in 11 years after a humbling defeat in London.
After just one minute, Chelsea youngster Loftus-Cheek was shown a yellow card for a strong tackle with the academy product walking a tightrope for the rest of the match. Just five minutes in Chelsea were awarded a penalty kick as Tal Ben Haim gave the ball away and Loic Remy played in Willian who was brought down by Pedrag Rajkovic. Stonewall penalty. However, Belgian winger Hazard smashed the resulting spot kick miles over the bar as Chelsea missed a great opportunity to go 1-0 up with less than five minutes on the clock.
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The Blues did go ahead after 15 minutes as Willian curled a long-range free kick into a dangerous area and the ball missed everyone and flew into the far corner. 1-0 to Chelsea as Mourinho punched the air with relief more than delight. However, Willian’s joy was short-lived as the winger was forced off through injury moments later after appearing to pull his hamstring. Diego Costa came on in his place as Remy was moved out to the wing.
In the 30th minute Maccabi had a great chance to make it 1-1 as Nikola Mitrovic’s free kick from the right found Eran Zahavi unmarked but the attacker sent his header way over despite slack marking. A let off for the Blues. Just before half time Oscar rattled the bar with an effort from close range but the referee had already pulled play back for a high foot from Costa, then Chelsea won another penalty as Costa wriggled free in the box and Ben Haim was adjudged to have brought him down. This time Oscar stepped up and the Brazilian playmaker sent Rajkovic the wrong way. 2-0 to Chelsea as the half time whistle blew. In the second half Maccabi started brightly and Avi Rikan’s shot bounced off Nosa Igebor and squirmed agonizingly wide for the Israeli outfit.
But just before the hour mark Chelsea trebled their lead as Fabregas clipped in a delightful ball into the box as Costa sent a volley off the crossbar and in with his back to goal. 3-0, as the Spanish international scored his first goal in Europe for the Blues. Late on Mourinho’s men added some more gloss to the scoreline as a rapid counter attack saw Remy have his shot saved but Fabregas was on hand to tap home Chelsea’s fourth.
Youngster Bertrand Traore came off the bench for the final 15 minutes, replacing the impressive Loftus-Cheek, and he curled a beauty just wide of the post as the West London club got their UCL campaign off to a flying start with a comfortable victory.
Now, can they take this form into their huge London derby vs. Arsenal (who lost away at Dinamo Zagreb in their Champions League opener) on Saturday at Stamford Bridge?