On an eventful afternoon at Stamford Bridge, Chelsea came from behind with Samuel Eto’o scoring his first Chelsea goal which was added to by Oscar and Eden Hazard deep into the second-half, the Belgian’s goal his second of the game.
The winger had equalised with what was an unusual strike, Eto’o having caught the goalkeeper out as he was about to clear up pitch, and to add to the talking points Jose Mourinho was sent to the stands in the second half.
Chelsea have now scored 11 goals in the last three games. Oscar now has five goals for the season.
Petr Cech made his 300th Premier League appearance and in front of him there was one change to the defence – Ryan Bertrand coming in for Ashley Cole who had yet to recover from the rib injury suffered at Norwich a fortnight ago.
Oscar was on the bench after games in Korea and China with Brazil so Willian was handed his home debut, joining Juan Mata and Hazard behind Eto’o. Fernando Torres, having won his race to be fit, was on the bench.
Cardiff moved Peter Odemwingie from the wing to upfront where he was joined by Jordon Mutch, pushed into an advanced position. Frazier Campbell and Kim Bo-Kyung were dropped with Don Cowie coming into the visitors’ midfield.
Cech’s hope of celebrating his landmark game with a clean sheet disappeared with only nine minutes played. Confusion ahead of him left our keeper unprotected as Ramires’s knock-back was allowed to roll on by David Luiz, giving Mutch the chance to collect the ball and find the net.
Prior to that there had been plenty of Chelsea possession but no threat to David Marshall’s goal. Eto’o was fouled by Medel on five minutes for a free-kick in Lampard territory. Firmly struck, it caught Ben Turner in the face, flooring the lofty centre-back. Mata later took a swipe at but made only minimal contact with a low centre hammered across by Eto’o.
Having gone behind, the Blues came within a whisker of levelling with 16 minutes on the clock when Terry headed a Mata corner just past the post, but then Cech needed to be alert and sharp to punch behind a free-kick that whipped off the head of Odemwingie and was heading for the top corner.
Lampard, with characteristic quick vision, played the ball long and early into Eto’o’s path and when Marshall raced out to intervene, the Stamford Bridge crowd was sure the keeper had come too far and handballed. Replays showed they were right. Half an hour had been played.
If Chelsea rather gifted Cardiff their goal, it was nothing compared with the equaliser two minutes later. Marshall, preparing to kick up the pitch, was somehow unaware of Eto’o just behind him as he chose to bounce the ball.
The Cameroonian snapped into action and kicked it away from the Cardiff keeper. Hazard picked up possession on the left of the area and squared back to Eto’o in front of the target. Unexpectedly and unadvisedly he took a controlling touch, inviting a challenge from Medel. In the end it would have been a penalty to Chelsea but Hazard rendered that academic by smashing the loose ball in.
With the ship steadied, David Luiz went for a lead before half-time, aiming a yard too high when invited to shoot. Our centre-back was booked soon after for blocking off Gunnarsson’s run.
The final chance of the half was another Lampard free-kick after a clumsy foul by Cowie out wide on Mata which was worthy of a booking. From a tight angle our vice-captain drilled the ball across the face of goal but wide.
Jose Mourinho set off for the dressing room before the half-time whistle was blown. Chelsea chances had come from set-pieces and opposition carelessness rather than open play. There were things to be said.
There were things to be said too by Mourinho when David Luiz misplaced his pass deep in the Cardiff half soon after the restart and then chased the counter-attacking Mutch. The manager appeared to be warning the Brazilian he had already been booked as the two ran past the benches, but in the end his player did well to retrieve the ball with a judicious challenge.
The length of time Cardiff were taking over dead balls had been annoying Chelsea ever since the visitors took the lead, and Marshall was booked for delaying a goal-kick beyond the limit of the referee’s patience.
Still the home side needed a spark. Oscar replaced Mata in the first Chelsea switch just before the hour and Torres followed soon after for Bertrand as Mourinho made a similar change as at Norwich when the scoreline was the same.
Cardiff had been pushing forward as much as Chelsea in this half without looking dangerous, their shooting too wayward, but now the Blues had three defenders at the back and plenty of bodies in attack.
The goal that gave us the lead came three minutes after the second substitution and it was vintage Samuel Eto’o. Taking a Hazard pass on the edge of the area, he sidestepped inside Steven Caulker and smashed the ball into the bottom corner. And how he celebrated too!
With his side in the lead, Mourinho restored the back four by bringing on Azpilicueta for Eto’o. It was a passage of events so reminiscent of his first spell in charge but the manager’s afternoon took another turn on 69 minutes when he was sent from the pitchside.
Having been spoken to earlier in the half for leaving the technical area, when Mourinho did so again unhappy about what was going on in front of him, the officials made their decision and he watched the rest of the game from among fans in the East Stand lower tier.
Fernando Torres and Willian could have added to the lead as Chelsea found spaces to counter-attack but the keeper saved on each occasion. Marshall was however beaten by a drive from Oscar from 20 yards out to make it 3-1 after Ramires had foraged possession, and by Hazard who shot in low. The Brazilian’s shot had been near unstoppable, the Belgian’s anything but. It was a soft goal to concede to cap a strange day for the Welsh club’s stopper.
Cardiff had shown resistance when only 2-1 down, substitute Kim Bo-Kyung forcing a good save from Cech with a shot flashed in from an angle, but they were now a beaten side.
With Liverpool drawing at Newcastle earlier in the day but Arsenal beating Norwich, Chelsea move into second place in the table.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1):Cech; Ivanovic, D Luiz, Terry (c), Bertrand (Torres 62); Ramires, Lampard; Willian, Mata (Oscar 58), Hazard; Eto’o (Azpilicueta 68).
Unused subs Schwarzer, , Cahill, Essien, De Bruyne.
Scorers Hazard 32, Eto’o 65, Oscar 77, Hazard 82.
Booked David Luiz 40.
Cardiff (4-4-2):Marshall; Theophile-Catherine, Caulker (c), Turner, Taylor; Cowie, Gunnarsson (Gestede 79), Medel (K Bo-Kyung 55), Whittingham; Odemwingie (Campbell 69), Mutch.
Unused subs Lewis, Hudson, Noone, Maynard.
Scorer Mutch 9,
Booked Cowie 44, Marshall 53.
Referee Anthony Taylor.