Friday , October 20 2017

Chelsea hold off Hull for first victory in four games – Everton, Palace share honours

Chelsea’s Eden Hazard (left), and Hull City’s Jake Livermore battle for the ball, during the English Premier League soccer match between Hull City and Chelsea, at the KCOM Stadium in Hull, England on Oct 1. (AP)
Chelsea’s Eden Hazard (left), and Hull City’s Jake Livermore battle for the ball, during the English Premier League soccer match between Hull City and Chelsea, at the KCOM Stadium in Hull, England on Oct 1. (AP)

KINGSTON UPON HULL, United Kingdom, Oct 1, (AFP): Willian and Diego Costa scored twice in six second-half minutes as Chelsea won 2-0 at Hull City on Saturday to claim a first win in four Premier League games.

Willian struck in the 61st minute after Chelsea launched one of a series of increasingly dangerous counter-attacks.

Costa’s pass picked out the Brazilian, who checked, putting his defender out of the game in the process, before curling an unstoppable shot into the top-right corner of the Hull goal.

Six minutes later the game was put beyond Hull’s reach in similar fashion.

Having powered into the area, Nemanja Matic saw a shot blocked by Curtis Davies, but Costa latched onto the rebound to bend a shot past Hull goalkeeper David Marshall for his sixth goal in seven games.

Victory provisionally lifted Chelsea to sixth place in the table and saw Hull drop to 15th.

Yet Hull had forced Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois into the only two saves of significance in the first half and, in between, gave as good as they got against a club they have not beaten in 28 years.

After just four minutes, and a David Luiz foul on Dieumerci Mbokani, Robert Snodgrass’s terrific 25-yard free-kick forced the Chelsea keeper into a twisting save as he turned the ball over his crossbar.

In first-half injury time, Ryan Mason gathered the ball 25 yards from goal and unleashed a strong shot that Courtois appeared to see late as he forced it behind for a corner.

Chelsea started with a three-man defence, a tactic adopted by manager Antonio Conte in the second half of last weekend’s 3-0 defeat by Arsenal, which meant Branislav Ivanovic lost his place.

The move saw winger Victor Moses make his first start for the club since May 2013 at wing-back, underlining Conte’s desperation to end his team’s recent run of poor form.

Willian looked a lively performer for the visitors as he attempted to spark them into some attacking life and on 16 minutes the Brazilian just missed the far post with a low, driven shot.

Moses also might have won a penalty on another day, with replays suggesting he had been tripped by Adama Diomande.

But for all Chelsea’s possession, there was not a serious moment of concern for Marshall in the Hull goal over the opening 45 minutes.

His first real test came in the opening minutes of the second period as Eden Hazard turned his man just inside the home half and darted towards goal before dispatching a curling shot that Marshall diverted over.

The ensuing corner was only half-cleared by the home side and N’Golo Kante latched onto the rebound with a low shot that Marshall smothered easily.

The pressure was mounting, with Chelsea looking particularly threatening on the counter-attack, through Costa and the pairing of Willian and Hazard behind him.

That combination should have brought about an opening goal on 58 minutes.

Kante’s through-ball was perfectly weighted and allowed Costa to round Marshall before shooting goalwards, the ball passing through the legs of Sam Clucas and striking the foot of the post.

The rebound fell kindly for Kante, but the former Leicester City midfielder hurried his follow-up attempt, sending the ball high and wide.

With Chelsea looking more and more menacing a goal soon followed and matters might have worsened for the hosts three minutes later as Costa saw an 18-yard shot parried by Marshall following another break.

Costa, with a wild shot from the corner of the six-yard box, and Oscar, whose low attempt was pushed away by Marshall, might have further extended the visitors’ lead in the closing minutes.

Everton 1, Palace 1

In Liverpool, Goals by Belgian international strikers Romelu Lukaku and Christian Benteke saw Everton and Crystal Palace draw 1-1 in their Premier League clash.

Lukaku struck with his fifth of the season in the first-half before Benteke, who endured a disappointing spell at Liverpool before moving to Palace in the summer, levelled with a superb header in the second-half. The draw was enough for Everton to put an end to a two-match losing run in all competitions.”

Everton manager Ronald Koeman was satisfied with the outcome.

“It’s a good point in the end. We defended set plays and second balls well against a difficult team,” the 53-year-old Dutchman told Sky Sports.

“The team performance was outstanding, although we’d like to create more opportunities. “We’ve had a good start to the season. The position in the table is not everything at the moment and we need to improve, but we’re doing a good job.”

His Palace counterpart Alan Pardew was proud of the manner his players refused to be overwhelemd by early Everton dominance. “They took the lead but we wouldn’t lie down and we did really well in the second half,” he said.

Everton made a bright start to the match forcing Palace to concede several corners in quick succession with Yannick Bolasie torturing his former team-mates with some deft footwork down the left flank. However, it took till the 19th minute for the hosts to force a save from Palace keeper Steve Mandanda, Lukaku firing straight at him.

Lukaku, though, broke the deadlock in the 36th minute, curling a pearler of a free-kick over the Palace wall, leaving Mandanda rooted to the spot for his fifth of the season.

The free-kick had been awarded in controversial circumstances as there was a suspicion Everton defender Phil Jagielka handled the ball before Palace’s veteran captain Damien Delaney raised his boot too high in the challenge.

Four minutes into the second-half Palace were level as Benteke produced a superb header, from Joel Ward’s cross, to beat Maarten Stekelenburg for his third of the campaign.

Everton stormed back almost immediately and a wonderful piece of skill by Bolasie teed up Idrissa Gueye but he fluffed his lines as Martin Kelly blocked his goalbound shot.

The visitors thought they had taken the lead when Delaney, making his 600th league appearance, had the ball in the net but it was ruled out for offside although the scorer did not appear to be in an offside position.

A pulsating match then saw Gareth Barry’s flicked header cleared off the line by Palace defender Jason Puncheon.

Palace came back at Everton and James Tomkins was presented with a great chance but his header was gathered by Stekelenburg.

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