Hull City put in a spirited performance against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge but were eventually beaten 2-0 by the Barclays Premier League leaders.
While the scoreline might make it look like a relatively comfortable afternoon for the Blues, it was anything but with the home side only really able to take a firm grip on the game following Tom Huddlestone’s dismissal on the hour, although the legitimate question City will be left to ask is why weren’t Chelsea down to ten men at that point?
Steve Bruce made three changes to his starting eleven with Curtis Davies recalled to captain the side. He was joined by Andrew Robertson and Nikica Jelavic, with Liam Rosenior, Stephen Quinn and Abel Hernandez the men to make way.
All was calm and quiet in the opening few minutes until Chelsea showed their class to take the lead with their first attack on seven minutes, and leaving the Tigers with plenty of reason for complaint. The move began with John Obi Mikel going in dangerously on Sone Aluko to win possession for his side. With Aluko down injured in the centre circle, Chelsea played on, working the ball out to the left wing from where Oscar delivered a deep cross to the far post where Eden Hazard headed home.
It wasn’t the start City had wanted and it got worse three minutes later when Michael Dawson was forced off with an injury. Alex Bruce was his replacement.
Jake Livermore saw a 25-yarder fly wide shortly after before Huddlestone was booked for a foul on Oscar.
Tenacious play from Livermore, impressive throughout, set City on the attack on 21 minutes with Jelavic playing in Aluko on the left but the Nigerian shot high and wide.
Huddlestone then won his side a corner after the Tigers had pressed their opponents high up the field but when a deep delivery came in from Aluko, David Meyler was penalised and booked for a deliberate handball at the far post.
Bruce made a good block to deny Diego Costa on the edge of the City box before Willian was booked for diving over a Curtis Davies challenge midway inside the City half.
Jelavic then headed a difficult chance from a Meyler cross wide before Gary Cahill was lucky to stay on the field after going in late with studs showing on Aluko. Yellow was the punishment.
Half Time: Chelsea 1-0 Hull City
Cahill could easily have been walking early in the second half when he went down all too easily inside the City penalty area, but referee Chris Foy only awarded a goal kick to the Tigers, although the referee was quick to book Costa for a similar fall a few minutes later.
In between, some quality play from City had seen them move the ball through midfield and to the edge of the Chelsea area before Livermore fired just wide.
Bruce was then harshly cautioned for a strong challenge on Willian before the game turned on the dismissal of Huddlestone, shown a straight red for late challenge on Filipe Luis. The City man could have few complaints.
The home crowd had been beginning to turn on their side, but now a man up they sensed their team could move in for the kill and they did just that on 68 minutes. The extra man afforded them the extra space needed for Hazard to slip a pass through for Costa to finish neatly past Allan McGregor from close range.
City weren’t prepared to give their opponents an easy ride and continued to throw themselves in front of every Chelsea shot and even threatened a late consolation with a couple of free kicks in dangerous positions but it wasn’t to be.
Hull City: Allan McGregor, James Chester, Curtis Davies, David Meyler, Tom Huddlestone, Jake Livermore, Nikica Jelavic (Gaston Ramirez 74), Michael Dawson (Alex Bruce 10), Sone Aluko (Robbie Brady 64), Andrew Robertson, Ahmed Elmohamady.
Subs Not Used: Eldin Jakupovic, Liam Rosenior, Abel Hernandez, Stephen Quinn,
Chelsea: Petr Cech, Branislav Ivanovic, Filipe Luis, Oscar (Didier Drogba 78), Eden Hazard, John Mikel Obi (Ramires 82), Diego Costa, Nemanja Matic, Willian (Andre Schurrle 80), Gary Cahill, John Terry.
Subs Not Used: Mark Schwarzer, Kurt Zouma, Loic Remy, Cesar Azpilicueta.
Referee: Mr C. Foy.