Chelsea made hard work of three points as Loic Remy’s winner 13 minutes from time maintained Chelsea’s six point lead at the top of the table.
The Blues, who raced into a two-goal lead inside the first 10 minutes, were pegged back with two goals in two minutes mid-way through the first-half, thanks to shocking work from Ivanovic and Courtois.
But Chelsea regrouped in the second half and, though Hull were hard to break down, super-sub Remy, who had only just come in for the injured Costa, scored with his first touch to score what will be a huge goal for his manager, instantly running to celebrate with the bench.
It means the Londoners are on 67 points with a game still in hand, though this will not be realised until late April.
It should have been much more comfortable than it was. You feared the worst as a Hull supporter as Chelsea started in spectacular fashion. Within 79 seconds, Eden Hazard ran and ran at the Hull back-line and, uninvited, unleashed a wicked left-foot shot that arrowed into the top corner. We have seen many times Eden Hazard try to walk the ball into the net, but this was something else and an opportunity he grabbed convincingly.
Things got better seven minutes later. Costa was clear on the left-side and Alex Bruce was forced to retreat as Costa proceeded. The Spaniard was invited too far forward, however, and curled the ball into the net. Game over?
Absolutely not. Hull knew they were struggling with their formation of three central defenders and changed to a back-four, a change which caught Chelsea out in the 26th and 28th minutes. It was in inexcusable fashion, however.
Robertson was allowed to run far too far with the ball, beating a half-hearted Willian and feeble Ivanovic block, and his peach of a ball evaded all Chelsea defenders as Elmohamady tapped home. It was a delicious goal, granted, but should have been stopped much earlier.
It always takes a big effort to score, but it takes an even bigger effort to capitulate. Chelsea spectacularly decided to throw up all their hard work by calamitous Courtois goalkeeping. Ivanovic had nowhere to go and his back-pass to Courtois just needed a simply punt by the Belgian. Far too casually, Courtois took a very heavy touch, inadvertently passing to Hernandez who slotted home.
If you thought it was a momentary lapse, it would knock Chelsea’s confidence for the remainder of the half. Mercifully, the Blues reaffirmed their hold on the game in the second.
Though not without its wobbles. Courtois atoned for his earlier errors with a triple save. Luis was caught trying to play the offside trap — and failing — and Elmohamady saw his shot hit Courtois’ chest. Livermore followed up for Courtois to parry away, but the best of the lot came from Ramirez’s follow-up, whose left-footed shot bounced off the ground. It is always made much more difficult that way but Courtois judged the ball height well.
But it still needed a winning goal. It was not going to come from Costa, who signalled he needed to leave the field of play with a muscular injury in the 75th minute, but it would come from his replacement within 90-odd seconds of his arriving.
Hazard ran with the ball down the right, found Willian who squared the ball back to an unmarked Remy. All he had to do was be in the box and stick his left leg out, and the ball bounced past McGregor’s legs.
Man of the Match
LOIC REMY: He did not play 75 minutes of the match and was barely existent for 14 of the 15 minutes he did play. But, in his one minute of note-worthy action, he secured Chelsea an additional two points. And that’s all you need. No fancy foot-work, no sideways passing. You need a guy to take the game by the scruff of the neck, commit to himself that he will make a difference. Remy’s been frustrated on the bench of late but, like Ba last season, knows when to make an appearance. He took his one opportunity. That’s all you need. 7/10
Mourinho was relieved: “The victory is very, very important obviously, we go back to three points after a draw at home last week. The performance was very, very good until 2-0. We lost a bit of quality after their two goals, but in the second-half from minute one, we recovered a good level of football. We deserved the three points.”
Bruce was full of compliments to his side: “That may well have been our best performance for the last 18 months. The players put in a hell of a shift and something like 19 shots on target against a really strong Chelsea team shows we’re ready for the challenge ahead.”