Chelsea have beaten Maccabi Tel-Aviv 4-0 in their first Champions League match of the season in a game that will hopefully see an upturn in form.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek was booked early on for a high tackle and Chelsea’s unassuming start to the season continued with a missed opportunity within five minutes. Eden Hazard sent a penalty into the Shed End after the Maccabi goalkeeper Rajkovic was only given a yellow card for bringing down on the on rushing Willian, something for which he should have seen red.
The half was slow to begin with as Chelsea struggled to break down the away side, and they consequently couldn’t break away effectively. The breakthrough came in the 15th minute and when it did it was lucky. A free-kick, won by Hazard, was put into the box from the far left side by Willian and went past Rajkovic in the Maccabi goal.
The penalty and the goal were to be Willian’s contributions to the game as he was substituted eight minutes after giving Chelsea the lead because of injury- he was replaced by Diego Costa, who has been a fairly solid like-for-like change, the Spain international happy to drift over to the left and allow Remy to run through the centre.
Chelsea improved after taking the lead, but they were lucky not to concede an equaliser when Maccabi’s single opening on goal was put over the bar- a header from Zahavi who was unmarked in the box and reached a cross from the right without any trouble.
It was certainly Chelsea that looked the most likely to score the half’s second goal, and they had to wait until the very last moment of the half to do so when they were given a second chance to score from the spot. Minutes of heavy pressure found Costa in the area who was brought down from close range.
It was Oscar who assumed penalty duties following Hazard’s horror earlier in the game, and he subsequently sent Rajkovic the wrong way to double Chelsea’s lead.
There were chances for both sides in the first ten minutes of the second half with the visitors coming close when Rikan shot with his left foot passed the post, an attempt for which the referee incorrectly gave a corner. Being 2-0 up allowed Chelsea to control the pace of what remained of the game and their attacks certainly appeared more relaxed. The passing in the opponents’ half was more accurate as they were less desperate to score. It only took ten minutes of the second half for Chelsea to add to their lead, and it was a fine finish when they did so.
Cesc Fabregas at last put in a ball that reminded everyone how good he was last season and Costa, with his back to goal, hooked the ball into the top corner superbly. It was a finish that all hope will be the rejuvenation of the Spain forward’s form and he must be a certainty to start against Arsenal on Saturday.
With the points now a certainty, Chelsea didn’t let their opponents any respite. The ball possession was much better than at any point since winning the league last season, and Hazard, Fabregas etc looked something like what they did a few months ago,although not quite. Loftus-Cheek was a towering presence in the middle in his first Champions League appearance.
Hazard and Remy linked up well to set up the fourth goal when the Frenchman’s shot was saved and Fabregas finished into an empty net as Chelsea rubbed their underwhelming opponents’ noses in it. The goal tally was almost added to by substitute Bertrand Traore, brought on for Loftus-Cheek, but his left foot shot went just wide.
The performance was a great improvement on anything else this season, but Chelsea could and should have been punished at stages. Maccabi Tel-Aviv were poor and should not progress past this stage, but a convincing win is exactly what Chelsea needed after a terrible start to the season and Saturday’s derby with Arsenal.