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Aug, 19, 2012

Eden Hazard sparks Chelsea to win

Premier League debutant Eden Hazard played a starring role as Chelsea began its season with a 2-0 win over Wigan at the DW Stadium on Sunday.

Both goals came in the first seven minutes, with Hazard setting up fullback Branislav Ivanovic for the opener and then winning a penalty that was converted by Frank Lampard.

Wigan dominated much of the rest of the game and pressed hard for a goal, with Chelsea target Victor Moses, former Blue Franco Di Santo and new striker Arouna Kone all forcing decent saves from Petr Cech, but could not make a breakthrough.

Hazard was Chelsea's highest-profile signing of the offseason and it took the Belgian less than two minutes to show why the Blues splashed out a reported 32 million pounds ($50.2 million).

He turned another summer signing, Wigan's Ivan Ramis, rather too easily in midfield and played a perfect ball through for the onrushing Ivanovic.

The defender was not in his natural territory, but he showed impressive composure to run on and slot the ball past Ali Al Habsi.

Wigan and Ramis' afternoon soon got worse as the former Real Mallorca defender crudely upended Hazard in the penalty area and Lampard tucked away the penalty.

"(Hazard) was brilliant," Lampard told Sky Sports. "It's a young age to come into the Premier League, no matter how good of a player you are. He showed the quality he has with the spin and the ball to put Ivanovic through and he showed great speed to get away from his man for the penalty. He was great to play with."

The Latics have endured 6-0 and 8-0 defeats by Chelsea in recent seasons and the DW Stadium must have feared the worst, but those were to be the European champions' only two shots of the first half.

"Last year we drew here and the home game we had a very tough encounter against Wigan so we were expecting a difficult game and the two early goals really helped us and settled a lot of nerves," Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo said. "We prepared the team well for the fixture and they were looking to get a quick start today."

Wigan captain Gary Caldwell found a way of stopping Hazard, chopping down the midfielder to earn himself a yellow card in the 11th minute, but the home side began to settle and dominate possession.

Di Santo, who before the match received Wigan's golden boot award for his seven goals last season, headed just over from an Emmerson Boyce cross, while the home fans felt Cech had handled the ball outside his area but referee Mike Jones disagreed.

In the 38th minute, Cech was called upon to make his first proper save from a rasping Moses effort.

Di Santo had Wigan's clearest opening of the half in injury time when he was played in by Maynor Figueroa but his first touch allowed Cech to close him down and a combination of the keeper and David Luiz cleared the danger.

The influential Shaun Maloney was forced off only three minutes into the second half and replaced by Jordi Gomez, but the pattern of the game did not change.

For all Wigan's pressure, Chelsea came within millimeters of making it three in the 63rd minute as Fernando Torres, who had been very quiet, finally found some space and his shot beat Al Habsi, but Ramis redeemed himself a little by clearing off the line.

Di Matteo then replaced one new signing with another, Oscar coming on for Hazard, while Kone made his Wigan debut in place of Di Santo.

"He showed all his quality today, he was outstanding," Di Matteo said. "He combined very well with his teammates, was a threat, exactly what we were looking for. He's got great technical ability. He's got a burst of pace as well, he can play with his back to goal, and he's got a lot that he can bring to our team."

Oscar showed his pace immediately by sprinting past Ramis and firing in a shot from the edge of the area that flew just wide of the far post.

Gomez had a good chance at the other end when he got his head on a searching Figueroa cross but he did not make the contact he would have wanted and the ball dropped harmlessly behind.

The Spaniard did better with a free kick from 20 yards out after he was felled by Lampard but Cech was behind his well-struck shot.

Kone, who scored 15 goals in La Liga for Levante last season, should really have opened his account in the 84th minute but powered a header wide from Gomez's corner.

And moments later the Ivory Coast international forced Cech into a good save before Gomez acrobatically volleyed the rebound just wide.

"In preseason you work so hard to try to start well and unfortunately today I don't think our start was the right one," said Wigan manager Roberto Martinez. "We were too soft, I don't think we had any defensive intensity and we got caught a little bit too easily. Sometimes you get away with it because as long as you react well you've still got a big say in the game but, playing a team like Chelsea, they took their chances really well, they punished us massively."

Di Matteo was tight-lipped on any potential new offer for Moses, with Wigan so far refusing to sell the winger unless their valuation is met.

Martinez revealed striker Connor Sammon, who was left out of the squad Sunday, is in talks over a move to a Championship side.

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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