Were Chelsea impressive in their first match of the 2012-2013 season? Not really, but Eden Hazard set up the first goal for Branislav Ivanovic with a wonderful pass and drew the foul that got the penalty, converted by Frank Lampard, giving Chelsea a 2-0 away win at Wigna to open their league campaign.
Six good minutes was all it took. While Wigan centre backs were struggling to cope with the three defender set up, Chelsea didn’t wait to see them figure it out. Hazard picked out the surging Ivanovic for a rare goal for the Serbian defender, playing as right back this time for Di Matteo. Only 2 minutes, already 1-0 and Hazard’s first meaningful contribution as a Chelsea player.
Five minutes later, and Hazard was a bit too much for Ivan Ramis to handle, getting a penalty while adding a little hop to completely convince the referee a spot kick was deserved. Farnk Lampard, who else, didn’t miss despite not being too clever with the kick, sending it powerfully to the middle, under Al-Habsy.
Then came the disappointing stretch from Chelsea. Not really parking the bus, but their midfield doesn’t offer the options to enjoy a lot of possession or dictate pace, at least not with Mikel, Lampard and Bertrand on the pitch. Hazard and Mata didn’t get too many balls, and obviously Fernando Torres saw even less of the actual play. Wigan didn’t create actual chances, but kept being dangerous with crosses to Di Santo.
Wigan created more chances in the second half, sending more men forward, but despite the industrious James McCarthy and James McCarthur in the middle of the park, Victor Moses, Shaun Maloney, Jordi Gomez and Arouna Kone couldn’t find the net and past a concentrated and confident Petr Cech.
On the other end it was mostly Torres taking advantage of a less and less defensive home side. He got his best chance while enjoying a fantastic through pass he couldn’t convert, beating the keeper while under pressure, but Ivan Ramis was there to save the ball from the line.
Conclusions? Wigan’s highest aspirations are simply staying out of the relegation battle. Maybe after a bit more playing time, they’ll settle with their new defending style. But the problems are up front, as Di Santo never struck me as a striker who can carry the load up front alone, while Arouna Kone isn’t the same player he was a few years ago when he was purchased, to high expectations, by Sevilla.
Chelsea didn’t impress, and probably got a bit of an undeserved win. Playing ugly soccer on their way to a title works once, not twice. Everyone, including the ever watchful and critical owner, Roman Abramovich, expect a bit more style and simply better football from the European champions. Di Matteo has the tools, he just needs to use them and send the right kind of orders to his players, instead of hoping to poach goals and rely on his defense. It won’t work against the better sides a bit later.