Hazard inspires Chelsea to win at Wigan
Chelsea got their Premier League campaign off to a winning start with a 2-0 victory over Wigan Athletic at the DW Stadium.
Branislav Ivanovic and Frank Lampard had the European champions two goals up within seven minutes of the kick-off after a blistering early start orchestrated by their marquee summer signing, Eden Hazard.
The Belgian playmaker laid on the through ball from which Ivanovic went on to score his first goal since Chelsea's 2-1 win over Wigan back in April before winning the penalty which Lampard converted soon afterwards.
The rest of the game was not exactly the sort of dominant performance befitting of Chelsea's status as the reigning European champions, with several uncertain moments at the back and Wigan spurning some decent chances, but Roberto Di Matteo will just be satisfied to get a first win as the London club's full-time manager under his belt.
Hazard was the only one of Chelsea three summer signings to start at the DW, with Oscar starting on the bench and Marko Marin not included in the squad. Defender Ivan Ramis had a Wigan debut to forget as he was outwitted by Hazard for both of Chelsea's goals.
Chelsea's joint-biggest away win in the Premier League came at the DW Stadium almost two years ago to the day, and their fast start had many wondering if another drubbing was on the cards.
With just two minutes on the clock Hazard turned in the centre circle and rolled a ball into the path of Branislav Ivanovic's galloping run. The Serb defender charged into the area and coolly finished past goalkeeper Ali Al Habsi.
Ivanovic was allowed to play in his club's opener despite getting sent off in last weekend's Community Shield due to that showpiece no longer being classified as a first-team match by the FA, and Chelsea reaped the rewards of that administrative adjustment.
Ramis was the player Hazard spun around before setting up Ivanovic's opener, and the Spaniard was again undone by the Chelsea man's poise and skill after five minutes when he tripped the Belgian inside the area to concede a clear penalty.
Frank Lampard hammered his strike from 12 yards low and underneath Al Habsi's dive to register a seventh goal on the opening day of a season in his career, one behind Alan shearer's Premier League record of eight.
After that early blitz, Wigan began to see more of the ball but they were unable to fashion many chances. The home side felt they should have had a penalty when Petr Cech appeared to catch the ball just outside the area, but none of the officials were sure enough to penalise the Chelsea keeper.
Victor Moses, reportedly a target for Chelsea, tested Cech with a well-struck effort from a wide angle that the keeper met with strong hands, but the Czech should have been beaten in first-half injury time. Maynor Figueroa played Franco Di Santo through on goal, but the former Chelsea striker's hesitation was costly as Cech and David Luiz combined to deny the forward.
For all the attacking talent Chelsea now have on their books, Fernando Torres is the only out-and-out striker at their disposal, but the Euro 2012 golden boot winner was unable to open his account for the season. He came close to scoring after showing great strength to battle his way into the area and trickle to ball past Al Habsi, but Ramis was on hand to clear it off the line.
Both Oscar and Wigan's new striker Arouna Kone looked lively after they were both introduced midway through the second half. Brazilian attacker Oscar fired wide with a low shot from range while Kone enjoyed lots of good interplay with fellow substitute Jordi Gomez, who fired a spectacular overhead kick off target with five minutes of the 90 remaining.
Individual errors from Ashley Cole and Cech could have proved costly on another day, but Wigan were unable to capitalise and Chelsea sealed their 12th win in 15 league meetings against the Latics.