Chelsea took their revenge for poor defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal out on Hull City with a convincing and compelling win at Hull.
Conte suggested change was required after those back-to-back defeats and a tactical switch, which The Chelsea Chronicle analysed, from 4-2-3-1 to 3-4-3 brought defensive solidity as well as a couple of convincing goals from Willian and Costa.
It means Chelsea stop the rot before the international break, as Alonso and Moses convinced in the wing-back position with Branislav Ivanovic the scapegoat dropped.
The pre-match talk suggested Chelsea would continue with 4-2-3-1 but very quickly once Anthony Taylor blew the whistle for kick-off, it was apparent Moses was applied in a more deep manner and acted as another shield which relieves Eden Hazard of defensive duties.
It was a move which, to start, did not look like it would pay off. A new shape brought initial jitters — it was Alonso and Moses’ first league starts of the season — as Chelsea, though with energy and purpose, failed to understand where each player stood in the new tactical set-up.
This afforded the likes of Mbokani ample opportunity to get in behind a centre-back trio of Azpilicueta, Luiz and Cahill, but the hosts could not capitalise on the uncertainty, even if Snodgrass did test Courtois from a free-kick.
Willian fired a shot across the face of the goal, and Cahill had an opportunity himself, as Chelsea looked to balance the game back as the first half wore on.
Nervy moments came right before the stroke of half-time, when Hull was afforded space and Courtois had to push away Mason’s long-range drive.
But all the action came in an expert second-half display from Chelsea.
Where the visitors could not muster a shot on target in the first 45 minutes, they had seven shots on target in the first 20 minutes of the second half alone.
The signs were there when Costa hit the post after rounding Marshall, where Kante should have scored from the ricochet.
But just after the hour mark Willian did break the deadlock from Hull mistakes. Costa latched onto the loss ball from sloppy Hull play and rode a couple of challenges before finding Willian. The Brazilian still had work to do, cutting inside four Hull defenders to bend a shot into the top-right hand corner.
The pressure was relentless: Costa again was allowed to turn and was allowed to cut back on his right foot but it was parried. Willian then tried to feed through Costa at the next opportunity, before Alonso whipped in a delicious ball for Costa after good work by Moses. The cross was cut out, but from the ensuing corner Matic’s header was saved.
All this was happening seconds after each other with Chelsea getting chance after chance, and so it was no surprise the Blues got their second goal just seven minutes after their first.
Matic did an excellent job running through the middle when the Hull midfield parted, and Costa, who deserved credit for dragging the defenders wide with him to afford Matic the space to run into, got the lucky rebound when Matic’s shot was blocked. The Spaniard then curled a first-time shot into the top-right hand corner in carbon copy fashion to Willian’s goal.
Where Hull had the odd chance, it came from 40 yard strikes from Snodgrass and Huddlestone but both daisy-cutters were not too testing for Courtois.
The same could not be said for poor Marshall, who had to contend with yet more pressure, with Alonso doing a superb job in running forward and whipping balls in from the left-wing.
Willian went through one-on-one and was felled just before he was about to pull the trigger, but Anthony Taylor waved play on. Costa then lashed wide from a Willian free-kick, whilst Pedro’s toe-poke from Alonso’s cross went narrowly wide.
It was an excellent reaction, particularly in the second half, to recent defeats to Liverpool and Arsenal, and it remains to be seen whether Conte’s men can keep this up after the international break.
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Man of the Match
MARCOS ALONSO AND VICTOR MOSES: Though Costa deserves credit for scoring and assisting the two Chelsea goals today, it would not have been without the defensive solidity of the wing-backs today. Much has been made of Hazard’s inability to defend, but those are not his qualities and his qualities would be wasted in a defensive set-up, so these two did a superb job, attacking-minded enough to join attacks in whip in excellent balls to Costa, but defensive-minded enough to help out Luiz, Cahill and Azpilicueta. 8/10
Conte was pleased the recent bad form, and attitude, was arrested: “I am pleased with our performance because we scored two goal and got a clean sheet. I saw the right pressure and the right intensity from the players. I saw many of the players with great commitment, attitude and will to change the situation. I am pleased for them.”
Phelan knew where the game was lost: “I think at times in the second half we were a victim of our own poor decision making and passing. Now we have to get together and move forward.”