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Friday 3 February 2023 Dublin: 9°C
Nigel French/EMPICS Sport Frank Lampard, right, scores Chelsea's second from the penalty spot.
AS IT HAPPENED
As it happened: Wigan Athletic v Chelsea, Premier League
Eden Hazard stole the show as Chelsea opened their Premier League campaign against Wigan. Here’s the minute-by-minute on this afternoon’s action from the DW Stadium.

OUR BUSY SUNDAY of sport started as Chelsea looked to get their Premier League campaign off to a winning start at the DW Stadium.

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Wigan Athletic 0-2 Chelsea

Afternoon all and welcome to the first Premier League Sunday of the brand spanking new, sparkly, shiny Premier League season. Are they calling it “Super Sunday” on Sky Sports? Probably but when you think about it, isn’t every Sunday a super Sunday? Yes. Yes it is.

Today’s first dose of superness takes us to the DW Stadium for the clash of the Robertos — it’s Martinez v Di Matteo as Wigan Athletic host Chelsea at the rather modestly named Dave Whelan Stadium. He owns the damn club, he can do what he wants.

Kick-off is in five minutes so I’ll just polish off the remnants of this baguette (tuna, sweetcorn, mayo) and clear the crumbs off the team-sheets.

A lot of Chelsea’s new boys are still on holidays it seems as Abramovich di Matteo fields a familiar lo0king side. Eden Hazard and Ryan Bertrand come into an attacking midfield trio, flanking all £50m-worth of lone striker Fernando Torres.

Wigan: Al Habsi; Boyce, Alcaraz, Caldwell, Figueroa; Maloney, McArthur, McCarthy, Ramis, Moses; Di Santo. Subs: Pollitt, Kone, Jones, Crusat, Watson, Gomez, Boselli.

Chelsea: Cech; Ivanovic, Luiz, Terry, A.Cole; Lampard, Mikel; Hazard, Mata, Bertrand; Torres. Subs: Turnbull, Cahill, Ferreira, Essien, Meireles, Oscar, Sturridge.

No respect for the European champions from Roberto Martinez though. He sticks to his preferred 3-4-3 with James McCarthy anchoring that midfield.

KICK OFF: We’re up and running as “Championes, championes” rings out from the away end.

GOAL! Wigan Athletic 0-1 Chelsea (Ivanovic, 2′) How about that for a start? The Abramovich/di Matteo double-act will be delighted by the role played by new boy Eden Hazard as Chelsea take the lead with little more than 100 seconds on the clock.

A Wigan adventure breaks down and Chelsea break at lightning speed. Hazard spins beautifully away from Ivan Ramis in the centre circle and then plays a beautiful ball through to Ivanovic who, supposed suspension be damned, has hared forward from the back to fire past Al Habsi.

What a start.

PENALTY TO CHELSEA! It’s very hard to make a judgement on a new signing on the basis of seven minutes but Hazard is looking worth that £30m or whatever it was Chelsea paid for him. He jinks inside Figueroa before Wigan’s own new boy, Ramis, tries to make amends for his role in the goal. Instead he concedes a penalty with a spectacularly clumsy challenge. Great start to his home debut.

It’ll be Lampard v Al Habsi…

GOAL! Wigan Athletic 0-2 Chelsea (Lampard pen, 7′) Only one winner there as Lampard fires low and hard to the keeper’s right. This could get pretty ugly, pretty quickly…

Ah yes, the old “welcome to English football tackle.” Gary Caldwell obliges just in case Hazard was starting to enjoy life in the Premier League a little bit too much. He’s booked.

If Wigan are to find a way back into this, Emerson Boyce is likely to have a part to play. He swings in a very good cross from the right, finding Franco di Santo who has slipped into the gap between Luiz and Ivanovic. He can’t get over the ball properly though and his header sails harmlessly over Cech’s bar from eight yards out.

Wigan have had 55% possession in the last 10 minutes, the Sky men tell me.

The Chelsea defence has to look sharp as Shaun Maloney pings a few balls into a crowded penalty area. It takes them a while but they finally hack clear and out of the danger zone.

Up against some of his former team-mates, Franco di Santo certainly isn’t afraid to take the ball into feet and run at Ivanovic and Luiz over on the right hand side of the Chelsea back four. Frank Lampard is back to lend a hand though and that’s an obstacle too, um, big for the little Argentinian to get around.

Referee Mike Jones and his assistant make a mickey of a decision as Petr Cech stretches those obscenely long limbs outside his penalty area and plucks the ball away from di Santo. It wasn’t a million miles over the line but it was over and the boos ring out around the DW.

Mike Jones reaches towards his back pocket as James McCarthy becomes the latest Wigan player to introduce himself to Eden Hazard. There’s no malice in the tackle, it’s just a little untidy as captain Gary Caldwell explains on McCarthy’s behalf. It works and the Irish international gets away with a final warning.

David Luiz catches Maloney and earns himself a booking for his troubles.

Hazard gets a clatter from the back of McArthur’s hand as the two tussle for the ball. It looked accidental but if I was Hazard, I’d be starting to wonder if this is what every Sunday afternoon is going to be like.

Answer: yes.

Wigan’s first shot on target forces an acrobatic if comfortable save from Petr Cech. He springs to life and tips a drilled cross-shot from Victor Moses behind for a corner.

Moses creates another quarter-chance for Wigan, hooking the ball over Ashley Cole’s head and then outmuscling him to the byline. His cross to the back post was a little too high for di Santo — most things are, I suppose, but the striker always looks the most likely to get onto the end of a chance.

Two minutes of injury time…

Oh, that should’ve been one back for Wigan. Di Santo is sent clean through on goal but his first touch is obscenely heavy and kills any chance he has of beating Petr Cech. He manages to regain control just in time to try to lift the ball over Cech but the keeper gets enough of a touch to take the pace out and Luiz trots across to hoof it away into touch.

HALF TIME: Wigan Athletic 0-2 Chelsea Shaun Maloney has the last chance of the half but curls his free kick comfortably into Cech’s hands.

After two goals in the first seven minutes, Chelsea have taken their foot off the gas and let Wigan back into it. The hosts aren’t creating too many clear-cut chances and that heavy touch by di Santo on the stroke of half-time might prove to be costly yet.

Sky have now used the phrase “Hazard Warning” twice in the space of five minutes, spoken each time with the relish of young schoolboy whispering the F word for the first time.

It’s not funny, it’s not clever, and I’m willing to bet it never will be. Please take note.

SECOND HALF: We’re back. No changes for either side.

Wigan start this second half where they left off in the first. A corner is only cleared to the edge of the box where Alcaraz takes a touch before floating it back over the crowded area to an unmarked di Santo at the back post. Rather than go for goal, he tries to pull it back into the middle of the area but Lampard throws himself at it to smother the danger.

Substitution: That didn’t take long. Roberto Martinez decides there’s no time like the present and whips off Shaun Maloney — who may be injured– and sends on Jordi Gomez instead.

Moses holds the ball up out on the right and lays it off to Figueroa. Again though, the cross is way too high for di Santo who is the only person in an attacking position. “Lots of potential, no end product” if you’re looking for a trite six-word summary of Wigan’s performance so far.

File this in the funny because it’s true section:

At the risk of repeating myself, Moses gets around the outside of Ivanovic but his cross is way too close to Petr Cech again. I’m not sure that relying on him to drop a clanger is really an effective strategy for Wigan.

Second-half possession stats: Wigan 35% Chelsea 65%.

James McArthur has a nibble at Frank Lampard from behind and earns himself a booking.

A spark of life after a rather dull opening to this second half. With his first real chance of the game, Fernando Torres bundles his way beyond the Wigan defence and looks to clip the ball past Al Habsi. It trickles towards the line but as Torres gets set to wheel away, Ramis — the man directly responsible for both of Chelsea’s goals on his home debut — gets back to clear it.

Roared on by the crowd, Wigan charge straight back down the pitch where Moses mixes it up a bit and this time slides a low ball across the face of goal. John Terry is first to respond and turns it behind for a corner.

Substitution: After spending pretty much the entire first half salivating over Hazard and then laughing as Wigan’s players thumped him around the park with glee, we’ve had our fill. It’s time for another Chelsea new boy as the Brazilian Oscar comes on to replace him.

Substitution: Another new face (and new hairstyle) for us to familiarise ourselves with as blond bombshell Arouna Koné comes on up front for Wigan, replacing di Santo.

A snifter for Oscar who obviously doesn’t think that t0day’s “Best Debutant” award should be a complete procession for Hazard. His gamble pays off when Torres flicks a header on into his path and then he beats Ramis for pace, finishing with a low shot across goal that’s not a million miles past Al Habsi’s far post.

Jordi Gomez has a brilliant chance to equalise but, inexplicably, decides to clear the ball into the stands instead. His header probably wasn’t that bad on purpose but it certainly snuffed out any danger which might have been caused by Figueroa’s lovely raking cross.

The linesman puts his flag up in a vain attempt to spare Gomez’s blushes. Too late.

Gomez tries to make amends, curling a low free-kick around the Chelsea wall, but it’s comfortable for Cech.

Substitution: With 10 minutes to go, Ben Watson comes on to replace James McArthur. That’s Wigan’s final change but it’s not likely to change much in these last few minutes.

Substitution: Meireles comes on for Mata.

Glorious chance for a Wigan equaliser. Koné steals in at the front post to meet a corner ahead of both Cole and Cech but he just can’t get enough of a turn on the ball to direct it back inside the post. A goal here now would make life interesting.

And another one! Two, even. This time Koné does everything right as he sticks out a toe and jabs a low cross past Cech from four or five yards. Cech’s knee just happens to be in the right place at the right time though and when the ball finally drops after spiralling in the air, Jordi Gomez’s acrobatic scissors kick misses the target.

We’re into injury time as Eden Hazard is named Man of the Match. Three minutes to play and then Chelsea can head back south with all three points in tow.

At least when I write it, you can pronounce it as you see fit:

FULL TIME: Wigan Athletic 0-2 Chelsea

That’s it so. Chelsea’s Hazard-driven blitz in the opening seven minutes is enough to secure all three points and get their campaign off to a winning start.

Wigan only have themselves to blame for that early sloppiness (well, everybody could blame Ivan Ramis if you want to be brutally specific about it) but that blip aside, they actually played quite well and had at least three gilt-edged chances to get back into the game.

Could Chelsea have stepped it up a gear or two if required? Almost certainly.

So that’s it from me for now but Super-dee-duper Sunday is only getting warmed up. Premier League champions Manchester City host Southampton at 4pm and my wittier, more erudite colleague Patrick McCarry will be along presently to take you by the hand and lead you through all of the action from the Etihad.

Enjoy.

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