Hazard shines as Chelsea coast to opening win
LONDON, Aug 19 — New Chelsea winger Eden Hazard, widely hailed as the next big thing, lived up to all the hype inside the first seven minutes of his Premier League debut after setting up both goals in a 2-0 win at Wigan Athletic today.
The Belgian, who joined the European Cup winners from Lille in the close season having turned down champions Manchester City and Manchester United, quickly silenced doubters who suspected England would be far tougher than the modest French league.
First he expertly turned marker Ivan Ramis to release right back Branislav Ivanovic, who ran in and coolly slotted home in the second minute, having been allowed to play despite a red card in the 3-2 Community Shield loss to City last Sunday.
Hazard then danced his way into the box and was carelessly upended by error-prone Wigan debutant Ramis, leaving Frank Lampard to slam in the seventh-minute penalty.
“Yes very happy, my first game, win. OK,” man of the match Hazard, 21, told Sky Sports in broken English.
Lampard waxed lyrical about his new teammate.
“It’s not easy at a young age to come into the Premier League no matter how good a player you are,” the England midfielder said.
“But you saw the quality he brought with the little spin, he put Ivanovic through and had the speed to get away from his man for the penalty.
“That’s something that I know Chelsea fans are crying out to see and it’s great to play with him.”
Roberto Di Matteo’s side, only sixth in the Premier League last term despite their Champions League triumph, then strolled through the rest of their season opener as Wigan and Chelsea target Victor Moses barely troubled goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Fernando Torres, now undoubtedly Chelsea’s main striker following Didier Drogba’s departure after May’s Champions League final, had one penalty shout turned down and otherwise failed to really shine.
Drogba’s move to Shanghai Shenhua means the Londoners will have to play in a different style this term, with Torres not as strong at holding up the ball as the Ivorian.
The change in emphasis could help pacey Hazard given this showing, although he was quieter after the break and failed to produce a shot from the right forward position.
Chelsea, with new signing Oscar coming off the bench, started with Ryan Bertrand on the left of attack to complete a memorable week for the 23-year-old, who scored in the Community Shield before making his England debut in the win over Italy.
Wigan have escaped relegation when seemingly doomed in recent seasons, and it could be another difficult campaign for Roberto Martinez’s men if they continue to be wasteful in front of goal despite having decent pressure.
Champions City host promoted Southampton in today’s other game (1500 GMT) while Manchester United and new striker Robin van Persie open their 2012-13 campaign at Everton tomorrow (1900).
Yesterday, Liverpool’s new boss Brendan Rodgers got off to an awful start with a 3-0 loss at West Bromwich Albion, while Arsenal missed Van Persie in a 0-0 draw at home to Sunderland. — Reuters