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Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic (left), competes for the ball with Leicester City’s Leonardo Ulloa during their English Premier League soccer match at Stamford Bridge, London, Aug 23. (AP)
Costa makes dream home debut as Chelsea maintain perfect run West Ham compound Palace problems

LONDON, Aug 23, (AFP): Diego Costa marked his home debut with his second goal in two games as Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea made it two wins out of two with a 2-0 victory against newly-promoted Leicester City. Costa was on target in the opening game at Burnley and he produced the goal that broke Leicester’s resistance in the 63rd minute before Eden Hazard wrapped up the points 13 minutes from time. The reaction of Roman Abramovich —- marking the 11th anniversary of his first home game as club owner — summed up the mood in Stamford Bridge, with the Russian standing to applaud Costa when he was later replaced by Didier Drogba. After the failure of a number of high-profile expensive strikers at the London side, most notably Fernando Torres, Costa’s start to life in English football following his £32 million ($55 million, 40 million euros) arrival from Atletico Madrid has given cause for optimism.

While Costa impressed, a further question mark was placed against fellow Spain international Torres’s future after he was omitted from the match-day squad. Not that this was an entirely comfortable win for Portuguese manager Mourinho’s Chelsea side. But ultimately the outcome of the game was not in doubt and the margin of victory could have been greater but for the efforts of City keeper Kasper Schmeichel.

Chelsea had demonstrated their title credentials in securing a comfortable three points at Burnley, rallying impressively after falling behind to an early goal. Leicester, though, quickly showed they would present a more formidable obstacle than their fellow newly-promoted team, with the visitors remaining largely untroubled during the opening 45 minutes. The slick interplay that had marked the win over Burnley was missing and an early mix up between Costa and Andre Schurrle summed up Chelsea’s disjointed start.
 
Costa, though, came close to testing Schmeichel with a powerful, 13th-minute drive. That was one of the few occasions Chelsea threatened during the first half, with Leicester looking increasingly comfortable as the interval approached. And had Riyad Mahrez, the Algeria winger, shown more composure on the three occasions he found himself clear on the right of the Chelsea penalty area, Nigel Pearson’s side might have ended the half in front.
Mourinho had been growing increasingly agitated on the touchline and his side’s approach after the re-start suggested the manager had managed to get his message across at half-time.
Chelsea immediately pressed forward and Oscar came within inches of making the breakthrough in the 48th minute when he curled a low, angled shot against the inside of the post.
Schmeichel, son of Manchester United goalkeeping great Peter, then produced the first of a succession of fine saves to block Branislav Ivanovic’s header after the full-back connected with Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross.
The keeper would produce another full-length effort to keep out Ivanovic’s long-range shot and an excellent reaction save to tip over Cesc Fabregas’s attempted chip.
But the best chance of the opening hour fell to City who should have taken a 55th minute lead when Mahrez sent David Nugent clear 40 yards from goal only for the forward to shoot too close to Courtois, allowing the keeper to save with his legs.
 
There was a sense Leicester would not get a better chance, and Nugent’s miss appeared even more costly when Costa put Chelsea ahead in the 63rd minute. Ivanovic had become increasingly influential with his attacking runs from right-back and the defender again worked his way into the Leicester box to collect a fine pass from Oscar. The Serb delivered a low cross that was deflected towards Costa off Liam Moore and the forward controlled on his chest before finishing with a close range, right-foot shot.
That strike sapped the visitors self-belief and the result was out beyond doubt when Hazard, cutting in from the left, produced an excellent finish for Chelsea’s second goal.
 
West Ham 3, Palace 1
In London, Mauro Zarate hit a superb debut goal as West Ham’s 3-1 victory added to the problems of managerless Crystal. Argentine forward Zarate joined the Hammers from Velez Sarsfield in pre-season and he marked his maiden appearance in the Premier League with a cool finish in the first half at Selhurst Park. Stewart Downing netted a fine second for the Hammers moments later before Marouane Chamakh reduced the deficit early in the second half. Carlton Cole’s goal sealed West Ham’s first win of the season following their last-gasp loss to Tottenham last weekend and eased the pressure on boss Sam Allardyce. Palace’s second successive defeat plunged the south London club into further turmoil, with co-owner Steve Parish still hunting a replacement for boss Tony Pulis, who quit on the eve of the new season after a row over transfer policy.
 
Parish thought he had lined up Pulis’s successor earlier this week when he offered the job to Malky Mackay. But he had to rescind that offer following the newspaper revelations about inappropriate text messages sent between Mackay and Iain Moody when the pair worked together at Cardiff. The fall-out from that scandal also led Moody to quit as Palace’s sporting director in midweek and the end of what Parish described as a “difficult week” was just as traumatic. Former Tottenham manager Tim Sherwood pulled out of the running for the Palace job after initially being deemed second choice to Mackay, leaving caretaker boss Keith Millen to take charge for the second week running. Millen saw former Lazio striker Zarate cap a lively debut with an exquisite strike to open the scoring in the 34th minute.
 
Hammers boss Allardyce has only clung onto his job after promising to play more expansive, attacking football and this enterprising display was a step in the right direction. Downing claimed just his second West Ham goal three minutes later as Palace paid the price for backing off in midfield. He raced down the right, cut off his flank and nudged a side-footed effort past goalkeeper Julian Speroni. James Tomkins headed against the crossbar to open the second half as West Ham sought to finish off the contest. Palace immediately seized on the reprieve, former Arsenal forward Chamakh firing in a low shot from 20 yards to half the deficit in the 48th minute. But Cole, so profligate against Tottenham, pounced on a loose ball in the Palace area to lash past Speroni and kill the contest in the 62nd minute. Parish must now act swiftly to secure a new managerial appointment, with Palace battling to get their season back on track.

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