Chelsea 2-1 Hull City
The highly anticipated start to the 2009-10 Premier League season began in fiery fashion on Saturday lunchtime, as Chelsea entertained Hull City at Stamford Bridge with Stephen Hunt - the man whose challenge in a Reading shirt led to Petr Cech requiring the headgear that is now synonymous with his frame - pencilled in for potential catcalling by unforgiving Blues fans.
As had been widely expected, new manager Carlo Ancelotti fielded a strong line-up in the promised 4-4-2 diamond formation, with Frank Lampard sitting 'in the hole' behind powerfully-built nuisance box-player Didier Drogba and last season's Golden Boot winner Nicolas Anelka.
Michael Essien - a driving engine from deep - initially lined up on the right, while Nigerian John Obi Mikel sat in front of a four-man defence that picked itself.
Hull City, meanwhile, would have gone into the game looking at damage limitation. Under the guidance of Phil Brown, the last season's Premier League new-boys won more points on away turf than they did at home, but any positive result gained at the bookies' favourite for the title would have surely been regarded as a bonus.
It did not take long for Republic of Ireland international Hunt to raise the hackles on the backs of the home crowd as, in the opening minute, he went in studs-up on Chelsea favourite Lampard.
Moments later, and the Blues could have gotten off to the perfect start as Drogba was gifted a pin-point opportunity from close-range to blast the ball into goal.
The delivery from roaming right-back Jose Bosingwa - who needs no invitation to hurl himself forward - was met on the volley by Drogba, but he fired astonishingly wide of the mark.
Down the other end and Hull's patient build-up play began to pay dividends, after Chelsea were so dominant in possession, as a Hunt corner eventually fell to captain George Boateng but Cech - off-balance - managed to block the chance with his feet.
Ten minutes later Boateng was again trying to drive the Tigers forth and his blocked shot opened up a route through to go for boo-boy Hunt and the former Royal, fresh from his summer transfer, silenced his west London critics by sneaking Hull City in front.
Chelsea equalised in the 37th minute as Drogba capitalised from set-play. The Ivory Coast hero opened up his right foot and accurately found the corner of goal after guiding the ball up-and-down the wall and past Boaz Myhill.
Chelsea's midfield, despite containing four established members, was new in layout, yet Ancelotti must have been working hard on the fluency in training.
Understanding was evident, communication had been key. When Mikel strode forward, Essien remained central, and Frank Lampard - a fierce box to box player last season - was again one of the most prominent players in the team's drive.
The Italian boss, though, deemed Mikel to be worthy of replacement, as Ballack was brought on in the second half.
Chelsea could have gotten themselves in front within seconds of the commencement of the concluding half, as Drogba fed in Anelka, but the Champions League winner with Real Madrid shot tamely at Myhill.
The Blues looked a lot livelier than they did in the opening stages, and the two-man strike partnership that had drawn criticism from some quarters appeared to be working in tandem.
The SW6 side were relentless in attack, and Anelka took it upon himself to try to penetrate through to a strikeable area, but the timing in the challenge of Andy Dawson - brother of Tottenham Hotspur's Michael - was impeccable.
Salomon Kalou was brought on with ten minutes to the game's death in order to win his outfit maximum points, and almost scored with his first touch when fellow sub Deco chipped the ball into his path, but the technically-gifted Ivorian headed high.
As Brown could be seen mock-laughing to himself that six minutes of added time would be played out, Drogba went on search for the winner, but some good defending from Turner denied Didier, however, that did not perturb the no. 11, as Deco - whose passing since his introduction to the game was nothing short of decisive - found Drogba on the left and the striker ingeniously dinked the ball over Myhill from an acute angle to give Ancelotti a winning start to life in England.
Chelsea - Cech, Bosingwa, Carvalho, Terry, A Cole, Obi Mikel, Essien, Malouda, Lampard, Anelka, Drogba.
Hull City - Myhill, Mouyokolo, Gardner, Turner, A Dawson, Mendy, Marney, Olofinjana, Boateng, Hunt, Folan.
Referee - Alan Wiley.
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