Cesc Fabregas inspires Chelsea to comfortable victory at Bournemouth
Cesc Fabregas conjured all of Chelsea's goals in a commanding performance to mask the Blues' defensive frailties in a 4-1 Premier League win at Bournemouth.
The Spain playmaker's inch-perfect through-balls teed up strikes for Pedro and Willian, while his astute flick round the corner let fit-again Eden Hazard drill home from 20 yards.
At the death another sumptuous Fabregas flick let Nemanja Matic square into the box for Hazard to tap home his second goal and cement the visitors' victory.
John Obi Mikel endured an uncomfortable afternoon as a makeshift centre-back, such was Chelsea boss Guus Hiddink's reluctance to start Matthew Miazga.
Gary Cahill's illness, coupled with John Terry's Achilles problem and Kurt Zouma's long-term knee issue, left Chelsea short in the heart of defence.
Mikel agreed to shift back from midfield, but hardly answered the clarion call from Hiddink with any kind of security.
Bournemouth wasted a hatful of first-half chances however, with only Tommy Elphick's header to show for their bluster.
Bournemouth dominated the opening five minutes but Chelsea punished their lack of penetration with the summary justice of Pedro's counter-attack goal.
Diego Costa found Fabregas and the Spaniard's through ball allowed Pedro to stroke home the opener in a three-touch move.
The Cherries restored their dominance, even adding the idea of a cutting edge - but woeful finishing stymied the hosts' advance.
Joshua King and Steve Cook skied shots from fine openings, before Lewis Grabban headed high and wide.
King fired a point-blank header straight at Asmir Begovic and Grabban glanced a header wide.
Just when Bournemouth sensed an equaliser, Chelsea struck again.
Fabregas' smart flick round the corner carved space for Hazard and the Belgium playmaker drilled home from 20 yards.
Again Bournemouth rallied, but this time they made their mark.
Begovic tipped Marc Pugh's hanging cross onto the bar, and from the corner the hosts finally troubled the scorers.
Elphick drove his header into the ground, the bounce eluding Begovic, and it went off the post and into the net.
Grabban then botched a one-on-one, with Begovic saving well, before Junior Stanislas shot wide from the edge of the area.
And at the end of the half Grabban was just unable to connect with Stanislas' low cross on the slide.
Bournemouth boss Eddie Howe introduced Benik Afobe and Callum Wilson on the hour to liven up a stagnant second-half - but that only served as another catalyst for Chelsea.
The Blues shrugged off their latest malaise thanks to the excellent Fabregas, whose through-ball let Willian canter clear and dink the ball over Artur Boruc for Chelsea's third goal.
As time ebbed away Fabregas produced another magical moment, his one-touch lay-off paving the way for Matic to tee up Hazard's second goal.
TWEET OF THE MATCH
Jeremy Vine (@theJeremyVine): "LOVE the way Eden Hazard puts on bursts of pace, then dummies, pauses, shoots. Possibly if the pause didn't last 28 games it might be better"
Artur Boruc 5/10
Simon Francis 6
Tommy Elphick 6
Steve Cook 6
Charlie Daniels 6
Dan Gosling 4
Andrew Surman 4
Marc Pugh 5
Joshua King 5
Junior Stanislas 5
Lewis Grabban 5
Callum Wilson (for King, 63) 5
Benik Afobe (for Grabban, 63) 5
Matt Ritchie (for Stanislas, 77) 5
Asmir Begovic 5
Cesar Azpilicueta 5
John Obi Mikel 4
Branislav Ivanovic 5
Baba Rahman 4
Cesc Fabregas 9
Eden Hazard 7
Nemanja Matic 7
Diego Costa 4
Reuben Loftus-Cheek (for Willian, 82) 6
Cesc Fabregas, Chelsea: The Spain playmaker was at the heart of every Chelsea goal, always dropping deep to find the time and space to produce that one telling ball to carve Bournemouth apart.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Chelsea set the tone for their victory with an opening goal to stun Bournemouth after the hosts had dominated the first five minutes. Costa laid off to Fabregas who threaded a ball through to Pedro, and the Spaniard did the rest with a neat finish in a three-touch counter-attack of deadly quality.
VIEW FROM THE BENCH
England centre-back Gary Cahill's illness stretched Chelsea's defensive resources, but surely not to the extent that required John Obi Mikel to drop back from midfield. John Terry's injury absence might have seen Matthew Miazga promoted from the bench to partner Branislav Ivanovic, but instead Guus Hiddink called on Mikel to act as a makeshift central defender.
MOAN OF THE MATCH
Bournemouth's finishing was little short of abysmal. While the Cherries have had a fine debut Premier League season and fully merit survival, boss Eddie Howe will not accept that kind of profligacy. The hosts squandered a hatful of first-half chances, and losing 4-1 in the end told its own story of how Chelsea responded.
WHO'S UP NEXT?
Everton v Bournemouth, Barclays Premier League (Saturday, April 30)
Chelsea v Tottenham, Barclays Premier League, (Monday, May 2)