Willian and Diego Costa produced fine second-half finishes as Chelsea tasted victory for the first time in four Premier League outings with a 2-0 triumph at Hull City.
Antonio Conte’s side performed fitfully in their 3-4-3 formation during the early stages and Thibaut Courtois was the busier of the two goalkeepers before the break.
Warnings from former Italy boss Conte that the 2014-15 champions could be set for another mid-table finish without improvement this season were cutting a little too close to the bone at that stage but his players showed their quality in a clinical display after half-time.
Costa was the provider as Willian netted with aplomb after the hour before the Spain international rifled in his sixth goal in seven league appearances this season.
Chelsea, who move up to sixth, dominated to the extent they were unfortunate not to add further gloss to the scoreline against a Hull side who have added a solitary point since their opening salvo of wins against Leicester City and Swansea City.
There were full debuts for Hull duo Dieumerci Mbokani and Markus Henriksen, along with Chelsea defender Marcos Alonso, while Victor Moses made a first Premier League start for the visitors since May 2013.
He lined-up in an unfamiliar right wing-back position as Conte switched to three at the back but the ragged defending of recent weeks was soon in evidence when David Luiz hauled down Mbokani in the second minute.
Robert Snodgrass’ attempt from the resulting free-kick clipped the top of the wall and forced Thibaut Courtois into a stunning reaction save.
Hull midfielder Ryan Mason had a pair of shots blocked following a slick move down the right flank before Moses had penalty claims waved away at the other end when Adama Diomande challenged him.
Curtis Davies produced a superb last-ditch tackle to deny Eden Hazard and Courtois saved sharply from a stinging Mason drive to ensure an end-to-end half concluded with the deadlock intact.
Hull goalkeeper David Marshall was comparatively under-employed before he turned a swerving Hazard shot behind three minutes after the restart.
Conte’s men were firmly on top as the hour approached and Marshall was grateful to see a sliding Jake Livermore clear against his own post after he rushed out to be rounded by Costa, with N’Golo Kante blazing the follow-up over.
The pressure told in the 61st minute, as Hull carelessly ceded possession. Davies limply tackled a rampaging Costa and the Spain striker’s pass found Willian to cut inside and pick out the top corner.
Marshall got down well to keep out a thudding Costa strike from the edge of the box but the Spain striker made it two seven minutes afterwards.
Hull were looking increasingly ragged in central areas and Nemanja Matic strode through towards goal to have a shot blocked, although Costa was alert to steer in a first-time effort on the rebound.
There was a swagger about Chelsea’s play for the remainder of the game, with Alonso and substitute Pedro coming closest to a third.
It was a performance to restore some confidence in the early stages of Conte’s reign, while shining a light on the damaging uncertainty surrounding Mike Phelan’s still interim status in the Hull dugout.
Key Opta stats:
– Chelsea kept their first clean sheet in eight away Premier League games, since a 4-0 win at Aston Villa in April.
– Since his joining Chelsea, only Sergio Aguero (55) and Harry Kane (48) have scored more Premier League goals than Diego Costa (38).
– In all competitions, Chelsea are unbeaten in their last 13 meetings with Hull, winning 11 and drawing two.
– Since Adama Diomande’s strike against Leicester on the opening day, Hull have failed to score a first-half goal in each of their last six Premier League matches.
– N’Golo Kante made more passes (79), more successful passes (70) and had more touches (95) against Hull than he’d had in any of his previous 43 Premier League matches.
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