Chelsea are out of the blocks with a bang after a comfortable away win at Wigan on the opening Sunday of the season, thanks to two goals inside the first six minutes.
It was the perfect start to the new league campaign as Branislav Ivanovic smashes us into the lead inside two minutes after Eden Hazard had put him through with a slide-rule pass, and Hazard created a second just minutes later when he was fouled inside the area.
From the moment Frank Lampard’s penalty (main picture) gave us a two-goal cushion six, victory looked assured, and although Wigan created the better openings thereafter the three points were never in doubt.
Petr Cech had to save smartly from Victor Moses and Franco Di Santo, who also headed over when well placed, but Chelsea could also have had more, Fernando Torres seeing his clipped effort cleared off the line in the second half.
So, three away points and a clean sheet, with two assists for the high-profile debutant. It is not a bad way to begin the new Barclays Premier League season for the European champions. Next up is neighbours Reading at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday night.
Roberto Di Matteo made just one change from the side beaten by Manchester City at Villa Park exactly a week ago.
With Ramires absent through injury, the manager opted to bring in Ryan Bertrand on the left wing, fulfilling the role he played in Munich exactly three months ago, and shift Eden Hazard across to the right.
Oscar was named among the substitutes despite having completed just two training sessions with his new team-mates.
For Wigan, former Blue Di Santo was selected to lead the line ahead of new signing Arouna Kone, with Roberto Martinez adopting the same 3-4-3 shape that caused us so many problems back in April. Moses, linked with Chelsea, started on the right wing.
Chelsea’s start could barely have been better. John Terry dispossessed Di Santo deep in our own half, the free ball falling to Ivanovic, who released quickly and continued his run forwards. Hazard turned his man splendidly inside the centre-circle and played the ball into the right channel, where the Serbian had continued his run and was able to steady himself and smash past Ali Al Habsi to put us one up.
Three minutes later, things improved further when Hazard once again proved Wigan’s tormentor, beating debutant Ivan Ramis inside the area before going down under a mistimed tackle. Lampard stepped up, with the result predictable, a low smashed finish giving us a two-goal lead after six minutes.
Wigan captain Gary Caldwell tried to put the shackles on the Belgian with a hard and late tackle from behind that left the youngster writhing. Referee Mike Jones responded with the flash of a yellow card.
Renowned for their tidiness in possession, Wigan endeavoured to play their way back into the game, though their best chance came from a deep Emmerson Boyce cross, headed over by Di Santo.
Petr Cech was fortunate not to be spotted handling outside his area after chasing a loose ball, but all in all Chelsea were comfortable.
By now with a two-goal cushion, the Blues, playing in black, could afford to sit deeper without going in search of a third goal. This meant Wigan had much of the ball, and territory, but were struggling for creativity in the final third.
Caldwell was joined in the book just after the half-hour by David Luiz, penalised for his first foul of the game after Wigan’s James McCarthy was penalised twice for similar tackles without further punishment.
Moses sought to bring his side back into it with a powerful drive from the edge of the box after beating Ashley Cole, almost catching Cech out by shooting early, but the goalkeeper was able to divert it away to safety with a one-handed save.
In injury time Di Santo raced away and should have pulled one back, but took an extra touch allowing Cech to save and David Luiz to clear up behind him, and right before the whistle Shaun Maloney’s free-kick was bent straight at the goalkeeper.
The game resumed with Wigan again on the front foot, Di Santo blocked off at the far post after Antolin Alcaraz had crossed.
Cole cracked a half-volley high and wide after Ivanovic had crossed, while Moses curled over on the hour and then Ramis cleared a Torres shot off the line as the game went from end to end.
With 27 minutes to go, Oscar was introduced for his debut, replacing Hazard whose influence on the game had abated since his excellent start.
Wigan responded with Kone, on in place of Di Santo who had endured the type of unrewarding afternoon that strikers in struggling trams often do. Kone scored 15 times in La Liga last seasi for Levante and would need to be watched.
It was the other sub though who immediately grabbed the attention, Oscar latching onto Fernando Torres’s flick, demonstrating superb pace, before firing a well-struck shot just past the far post.
Wigan’s best opportunity came on 70 minutes when Maynor Figueroa’s searching cross found sub Jordi Gomez unmarked and just onside inside the Chelsea area. His header was misplaced and way off target, allowing David Luiz, who had played the midfielder onside, a let off.
The same player then curled a low free-kick straight at Cech, the ball bouncing in front of the stopper to make it difficult, and Kone headed wide at the near post as the home side’s chances of claiming anything began to disappear.
The forward forced a superb close-range save from Cech in the 85th minute after Moses had crossed low, with Gomez crashing the rebound wide. These two were linking up well, and Gomez would curl one more effort wide after Kone’s lay-off, and they may well prove a potent combination later in the season.
Today was Chelsea’s though, and we march home with a morale-boosting victory and two home league games in the next week to look forward to.
Wigan Athletic (3-4-3): Al Habsi; Ramis, Alcaraz, Caldwell (c); Boyce, McCarthy, McArthur (Watson 79), Figueroa; Moses, Di Santo (Kone 66), Maloney (Gomez 48).
Unused subs Pollitt, Jones, Crusat, Boselli.
Booked Caldwell 10, McArthur 56
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, David Luiz, Terry (c), Cole; Mikel, Lampard; Hazard (Oscar 63), Mata (Meireles 82), Bertrand; Torres.
Unused subs Turnbull, Cahill, Ferreira, Essien, Sturridge.
Goals Ivanovic 1, Lampard (pen) 6
Booked David Luiz 34, Lampard 79
Referee Mike Jones