LONDON: Chelsea welcomed Jose Mourinho back to Stamford Bridge in explosive style by quickly seizing all three points racing in a 2-0 win over promoted Hull. The goals came in the opening 24 minutes.
Chelsea’s fans had found a rare ‘thankyou’ message in the match programme for the game from club owner Roman Abramovich.
Celebrating the 10thanniversary of his purchase of the club, the Russian oligarch wrote: “Thanks for your support. We have had a great decade together and the club could not have achieved it all without you. Here’s to many more years of success.”
But that was not all.
Mourinho revealed after the game that Abramovich had visited the team before the match.
He said: “It’s the fifth season I’ve started with Chelsea. We had Mr Abramovich in the dressing room with us for the first time in those years before the match. It was a moment wishing everyone the best, the medical department and the players not selected.
“To have Mr Abramovich coming from his holiday to be with the team meant a lot to all of us. We are together and know where we want to go. I think it’s great, especially for the players, to feel the atmosphere around.
“We have kids who need stability and we want to give them conditions to do well. We need to win matches but we can try to make this progress at the same time: get results and support the boys.”
Mourinho was delighted by the way his team began Sunday’s match and believes that the players’ hunger and desire is equal to that of his past Chelsea teams. He admitted, however, that he was rather less happy with their second-half performance.
He said: “I’ve played so many times here and won so many matches here, but we’ve not had so many periods here like that quality.
“When I saw the second half going in another direction, at the beginning I was frustrated because I want more. But after five minutes I thought we didn’t because we couldn’t. We can’t play that way for 90 minutes. We had no physical energy and no mental availability to play that way.”
Mourinho also said Chelsea would try “until the last day” of the transfer window to add a centre-forward but suggested that Wayne Rooney is no longer his only target.
He added: “I don’t think it’s ethical if I name players who belong to other clubs but you know which players. If we can sniff a situation [we will], but always in an ethical way. We don’t try to influence players to behave in a certain way, as other clubs do.”
Once the initial ovations of welcome for Mourinho had subsided, the Europa League holders wasted a sixth-minute chance to take the lead when Frank Lampard had a penalty saved by Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor.
No matter. Seven minutes later Oscar scored the first goal of Mourinho’s second coming on a neat assist from Kevin De Bruyne. Then Lampard – one of four Mourinho ‘old boys’ along with Petr Cech, Ashley Cole and John Terry – made amends for his penalty miss by thundering home his 142nd league goal for the club from 30m in the 24th minute.
McGregor, with a double-handed save, defied Brane Ivanovic from close range just before half-time. Hawk-Eye’s Goal Decision System apparently confirmed that the ball did not cross the line. No argument.
The pace of the game dropped after half-time. Mourinho sought to shake it up in the 67th minute when he brought on Andre Schurrle as substitute for De Bruyne. The ex-Leverkusen man was close to a stunning goal but his angled shot sliced narrowly over the crossbar.
Mourinho did not urge his players to raise the tempo. He knew the job was done – and his players have a busy week ahead, home to Aston Villa on Wednesday and away to Manchester United next Monday.
Earlier Spain striker Roberto Soldado scored a debut penalty for Tottenham to start repaying the club record fee of £26m in a 1-0 London derby win at promoted Crystal Palace.
Gylfi Sigurdsson, playing in the centre of midfield with Lewis Holtby absent through knee trouble, missed a fine chance of a second goal early in the second half. Substitute Jermain Defoe was similarly wasteful late in the game.
Spurs had lost all their previous five away games on the opening day of the season.