Chelsea beat Leicester, maintain perfect start
Stamford Bridge offered a heartfelt ovation to a returning hero after delivering a hymn of adulation to an emerging one as Chelsea underlined their title intent with a 2-0 win over dogged Leicester City on Saturday (local time).
When Diego Costa came off 10 minutes from time and embraced his illustrious replacement, almost 10 years to the week since Didier Drogba first made his debut for Chelsea, the standing ovation for their beloved Ivorian felt quite emotional.
As the Spain striker rested satisfied on the bench, it was his name which kept reverberating around the ground after his second goal in two games since his 32 million pounds ($53.02 million) move from Atletico Madrid, and his first at home, broke the resistance of a Leicester team that had given the Premier League title favourites a searching test for more than an hour.
Costa, who hardly had a look-in during the first half thanks to the meaty defiance of captain Wes Morgan at the back, finally unlocked the Leicester defence as Chelsea cranked up the pressure, controlling a cross from Branislav Ivanovic on his chest with aplomb before bundling the ball past the seemingly unbeatable Kasper Schmeichel after 62 minutes.
A brilliant individual run and searing, if deflected, strike in the 77th minute from Eden Hazard sealed a victory that could turn out to be significant as the season progresses particularly if promoted Leicester can keep replicating the crispness of their passing and combative nature of their midfield.
City look nobody's pushovers and earned high praise from Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho.
He felt Leicester had played to win and noted how important keeper Thibaut Courtois's speed of thought was to advance and block David Nugent's second-half effort when it seemed odds-on that the former England striker would put the visitors ahead.
Ultimately, though, it was Mourinho's "emotional" outburst at halftime that worked wonders as Chelsea claimed their second victory in as many league games this season.
His men, the manager claimed, had perhaps been lulled into being "lazy" in the first half by the warm weather.
"At halftime I had to be a bit emotional with them and make them realise it was not good enough," he said.
"I told them 'If you have the same feeling and vision I have, we are not in trouble because we change. If you don't agree then we are in trouble'."
Mourinho's commands were swiftly obeyed.
Chelsea dramatically awoke in the second period, their quality overflowing.
Schmeichel made two stupendous saves from Ivanovic that his dad Peter, formerly of Manchester United and Denmark, would have been proud of and even when he was beaten by Oscar's strike from the edge of the box, the woodwork saved Leicester.
Costa's intervention was then just as crucial as his opening goal was in Monday's 3-1 triumph at Burnley.
Last season, Mourinho must have thought, Chelsea might have squandered the chance to land three points on Saturday, such was the profligacy of their strike force.
In the bustling, bristling handful that is Costa, though, it already looks as if Mourinho has found one of the keys to ensuring that he does not go an unprecedented third successive season without winning a league title.
"I got the feeling in pre-season that adaptation wouldn't be a big deal," Mourinho said of the Spain striker.
"Easy guy, happy guy, not speaking good English, but always communicating and (having) big integration in the team."
Drogba's ecstatic late introduction as a substitute against Leicester was not marked by the fairytale whiff of a 101st league goal for the club he rejoined in the close season but at least he was Mourinho's preferred second striker with Fernando Torres not even finding on the bench.
Still, Torres has an important future at the club, reckoned Mourinho, as he dismissed media reports the Spaniard would be sent out on loan.
Asked if he would stay, Mourinho said: "Yes, I believe so. I want three strikers in the team and I want him. He will play, he will score goals, he will be very useful for us. He's a fantastic player, a fantastic professional."
WINS FOR SWANSEA, WEST HAM
Swansea City also have six points from their opening two games and are second behind Chelsea in the early-season table after beating Burnley 1-0 at the Liberty Stadium.
Swansea played well for their victory and secured it when Nathan Dyer scored after 23 minutes.
West Ham United picked up their first points with a 3-1 win at managerless Crystal Palace thanks to two first half goals in three minutes from Argentine debutant Mauro Zarate and Stewart Downing, and a second half volley from Carlton Cole.
Marouane Chamakh scored for Palace before Cole's third for the Hammers but the Eagles have now lost both their opening games following their 2-1 loss at Arsenal last week.
In the other games Aston Villa drew 0-0 with Newcastle United in a dour match and Southampton were held to a 0-0 draw at home by West Bromwich Albion.
Swansea, who opened their campaign with a first ever league win at Manchester United last week, picked up another three points against a battling Burnley side.
"I knew it would be a tough game. In the first half we controlled it, but in the second we expected them to throw everything at us and they did. But you have to applaud our players," Swansea manager Gary Monk told Sky Sports.
"You have games like that and it's about the attitude of your players and the way they defended was superb, restricting Burnley to one shot on target."