Costa stars in return as Chelsea see off plucky Hull
Chelsea stretched their lead at the top of the Premier League to eight points with a 2-0 win over Hull City in a game beset by poor officiating.
The hosts dominated the first half and should have taken the lead when Diego Costa was incorrectly ruled offside. Hull's Curtis Davies then avoided a second yellow card for a bookable offence when he fouled Pedro on the edge of the penalty area. Costa fired Chelsea in front deep into first-half stoppage time with referee Neil Swarbrick waving away Hull's appeals for a foul by Gary Cahill in the build up.
Hull might have equalised early in the second half when they were denied a clear penalty following Marcos Alonso's clumsy challenge on Abel Hernandez. A series of soft free kicks in Hull's favour after that point were in vain as the Blues wrapped up the points when Cahill nodded home a Cesc Fabregas free kick nine minutes from time.
After a weekend in which the majority of their title rivals dropped points, it was vital that Chelsea took advantage. That they did so despite failing to reach the heights to which the supporters have become so accustomed to was also pleasing.
The way in which possession was ceded in the second half as the midfield battle was lost was worrying especially ahead of fixtures looming against Liverpool and Arsenal. A repeat of such sloppiness will be ruthlessly punished against better opposition.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Bringing Diego Costa back into the fold after some excellent managing of a tricky situation was an obvious move but one that paid off. Introducing Fabregas to reclaim the midfield was an intelligent and important switch.
Player ratings (1-10, 10=best; players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Thibaut Courtois, 8 -- Made some smart stops both from long range and from close in with a save late on from a Oumar Niasse snapshot being particularly eye-catching.
DF Cesar Azpilicueta, 7 -- Relatively untroubled as he dealt well with danger on the ground and in the air.
DF David Luiz 8 -- An imposing and reassuring presence in the centre of the back three, the Brazilian delivered both strength and finesse in an excellent display. Kept the back line organised during concerted pressure from Hull in the second half.
DF Gary Cahill, 7 -- Got a nasty knock to the head in the first half which seemed to scramble his decision-making at times. Regrouped and secured the win with the second goal.
MF Marcos Alonso, 7 -- Was very lucky not to concede a penalty but was otherwise defensively sound with one header under pressure from Tom Huddlestone with the score at 1-0 proving crucial. Less effective in advanced areas than in recent weeks.
MF Victor Moses, 7 -- A positive performance in both attack and defence. Was rarely exposed at the back and delivered the cross for the opening goal.
MF N'Golo Kante, 6 -- A strange game for the Frenchman who coupled some excellent challenges with being bypassed more than usual. Supplied a couple of surging runs to relieve pressure on the defence.
MF Nemanja Matic, 5 -- Not the Serb's best afternoon with his advanced pressing exposed by some intelligent runs forward by the impressive Harry Maguire. Questionable distribution did not help the cause in a nervy second half.
FW Pedro, 7 -- The Spaniard was a blur of motion as he constantly probed the defence to find an opening. Earned some free kicks in dangerous areas.
FW Eden Hazard, 6 -- Did not lack for effort as he popped up all over the pitch in a bid to make the difference. Was unable to make a decisive impact despite being continually involved.
FW Diego Costa, 8 -- Almost scored after ten seconds and was denied a goal by an errant flag from the assistant referee before finally breaking the deadlock. Led the line well and refused to get frustrated despite getting very little change out of the referee.
MF Cesc Fabregas, NR -- Supplied some composure to a disjointed midfield and delivered a beautiful cross for the second goal.
FW, Willian NR -- Came on for Pedro and provided energy on the counter attack
FW Michy Batshuayi -- Looked lively in his few minutes on the pitch and showed a commendable attitude.
Phil is one of ESPN's Chelsea bloggers. You can follow him on Twitter @PhilLythell.