A goal in each half gave the league leaders a deserved home victory, Eden Hazard’s eighth of the season and Diego Costa’s 12th doing the damage.
Shortly before the Blues’ second goal, Hull’s Tom Huddlestone was shown a straight red card, consigning the visitors to play a third of the game with 10 men, but even before that setback, Steve Bruce’s side had rarely threatened, Hazard having made the important breakthrough early on.
The referee also booked seven players but the more important statistic is Jose Mourinho’s men retaining their 100 per cent home record in this league campaign and their three-point lead at the top.
Petr Cech started with Thibaut Courtois out with a small muscle injury. His previous league involvement this season was when he came on when the Belgian was injured early in our win over Arsenal.
Midweek goalscorer John Mikel Obi retained his place with Cesc Fabregas serving a one-match ban. Filipe Luis was another who had come in for the Sporting Lisbon match who was again handed a start. He was on the left with Branislav Ivanovic returning as right-back. Willian, Eden Hazard and John Terry, who had all been given time off during the week, were back in the side.
Hull switched from the 4-4-2 used in their home draw with West Brom last time out. Captain Curtis Davies came into a three-man defence with Michael Dawson and James Chester. Nikica Jelavic played up front with Sone Aluko.
Having responded well to the Newcastle defeat in the Champions League game that followed, the task in hand today was to continue that into Premier League action.
The first time Chelsea troubled the Hull defence came from Ivanovic getting the better of their left wing-back Andrew Robertson. Filipe Luis picked up the centred ball but his little lob over the centre-backs was too firmly hit for Diego Costa and co.
There was no such problem with the next ball delivered into the danger zone. Mikel had won possession in midfield and Nemanja Matic sprayed a pass out to Oscar. The diagonal ball struck by the Brazilian was a gem, and Hazard had escaped behind his marker to head down and in like a seasoned centre-forward. There were only six minutes on the clock, exactly the start and early goal required in a home fixture such as this. Hull have not been good at coming from behind this season.
Steve Bruce’s problems quickly mounted with an injury to Dawson ending the former Tottenham defender’s game very early. The Hull manager brought on his son Alex.
Huddlestone was then booked for a late challenge on Oscar. Referee Chris Foy had earlier elected not to show a card when Davies’s high boot had made contact with John Terry’s head.
There was a chance for Hull to hit back on 20 minutes when Aluko found half a yard inside the Chelsea area to get a shot away, but the brother of Chelsea Ladies striker Eniola Aluko cleared the bar by some distance. Terry and Cahill were clearly not happy he had even had the opportunity. It was however the best one Hull would be allowed by another good display at the back.
The Tigers had more of the ball for a period, but David Meyler was booked for a clear deliberate handball as he tried to prevent a cross flying away from the Chelsea goal. Ivanovic then caused more chaos at the other end but the visitors defended successfully as Diego Costa wound up to shoot.
On 30 minutes, Willian was booked for simulation as he approached the Hull area on a run down the middle, and seven minutes later Cahill was shown yellow for catching Aluko as the two players went for a loose ball.
Between those cautions, Hull twice in a couple of seconds made a mess of possession on the edge of the area, but hacked the ball clear successfully with Diego Costa about to pounce.
The best play from Jose Mourinho’s men for the rest of the half came with intricate, skilful moves in wide areas. More clear-cut chances in the second-half would be welcome to put this game to bed, but it was worth bearing in mind the Humbersiders had yet to concede more than two goals in any game this season.
Hull had the first attempt after the restart, but Jake Livermore’s effort struck between two blue-shirted bodies lacked power and placement.
Ten minutes in Bruce was booked for a challenge on Willian that verged on the wild side. Fortunately our No.22 had his leg off the ground and was okay.
The cards kept coming – Diego Costa’s the next name taken. There appeared to be contact from Curtis Davies’s leg on our centre-forward as he tried to go by but the ref decided on simulation.
Moments later Chris Foy was reaching for his red card and there could be no dispute about the decision. Huddlestone had flown into a challenge, missed the ball and stamped down on Fiiipe Luis’s knee. It hurt the Brazilian but did no major damage.
Hull were left with half-an-hour to play with 10 men and there was quickly a shout for a Chelsea penalty for handball, but with a cross deflecting up off Chester’s leg onto his arm, the ref decided it was unavoidable.
Chester was the next player booked for a foul on Oscar, a minute before the second Chelsea goal.
Hazard, again in eye-catching form, twice played major parts in one of the best moves of the game. Having carried the ball, he exchanged passes with Ivanovic before judging to perfection a defence-splitting pass. Diego Costa, as so often this season, was the right man in the right place to roll a shot across the keeper and into the far side of the net, his first goal since the visit of West Brom three weeks ago.
With a two-goal and one-man advantage, Chelsea completely dominated the closing stages. Ivanovic sent a rocket not too far over.
Didier Drogba, Andre Schurrle and Ramires were all introduced in quick succession, and it took a sliding stop from Bruce to prevent a shot from the German testing the keeper when teed up by Drogba.
The two goals were enough, and Cech has had to work harder for previous additions to his extensive clean-sheet collection. The fixtures keep coming thick and fast with Capital One Cup action with a place in the semi-finals at stake in three days’ time.
Chelsea (4-2-3-1): Cech; Ivanovic, Cahill, Terry (c), Filipe Luis; Mikel (Ramires 82), Matic; Willian (Schurrle 80), Oscar (Drogba 77), Hazard; Diego Costa.
Unused subs Schwarzer, Zouma, Azpilicueta, Remy.
Scorers Hazard 6, Diego Costa 68.
Booked Willian 31, Cahill 38, Diego Costa 58.
Hull (3-5-2): McGregor; Chester, Dawson (Bruce 9), Davies (c); Elmohamady, Huddlestone, Livermore, Meyler, Robertson; Aluko (Brady 64), Jelavic (Ramirez 74).
Unused subs Jakupovic, Rosenior, Quinn, Hernandez.
Sent off Huddlestone 61
Booked Huddlestone 15, Meyler, 26, Bruce 57, Chester 67.
Referee Chris Foy