KINGSTON UPON HULL, March 23- Loic Remy scored within two minutes of coming on as a substitute as Chelsea battled to a 3-2 victory against Hull that moved them six points clear at the top of the Premier League on Sunday.
Goals from Eden Hazard and Diego Costa put Jose Mourinho’s side in command in the first nine minutes at the KC Stadium, but Hull showed admirable determination to draw level with two goals in quick succession from Ahmed Elmohamady and Abel Hernandez before half-time.
Mourinho had warned his side against complacency as they bid to finish ahead of second placed Manchester City and earn their first title since 2010, so there was a real sense of relief among Chelsea’s players and supporters when French striker Remy came off the bench to score with 13 minutes left.
It was Blues’ first win in three games in all competitions.
Hull know as well as anyone just how incisive Hazard can be after the Belgian had scored twice in the last two Premier League meetings between the teams and it took him just 78 seconds to make it three in three.
Costa displayed trademark strength to receive Nemanja Matic’s pass and turn Alex Bruce, laying the ball off to Hazard in the process.
Hazard’s shot from 20 yards arrowed beyond Allan McGregor and into the corner of the net.
Uruguay striker Hernandez squandered a good chance to level in the fifth minute.
David Meyler’s pass was flicked on by Dame N’Doye to Hernandez, but the Hull striker rushed his shot and fired directly into the chest of Thibaut Courtois.
As if to highlight Hull’s lack of cutting edge, Costa doubled the visitors’ advantage four minutes later.
Hazard dropped deep to take control of the attack and fed the ball to Cesc Fabregas, who supplied Costa in the left channel.
Michael Dawson made the mistake of allowing the Spain striker to carry the ball into the 18 yards box and the result was a curling shot for his 19th club goal of the season.
– Tactical switch –
Even at that early stage, the game looked lost for Hull and credit must go to manager Steve Bruce for a tactical switch –- from 3-5-2 to 4-2-3-1 -– that allowed his side to apply more pressure on the visitors and draw level with two goals in 74 seconds.
Andy Robertson was moved to left-back from left wing-back but the Scotland international’s strength is getting forward.
The 21-year-old set up Hull’s first goal when he showed good strength to break into the penalty area before delivering a perfect low cross for Elmohamady to finish as he slid in.
Courtois had no chance on that occasion but the Belgium goalkeeper was highly culpable for Hull’s second from the subsequent attack.
Branislav Ivanovic’s pass put him under pressure as Gaston Ramirez closed the ball down but the goalkeeper tried to beat him rather than hack clear, only his touch was too heavy and it allowed Hernandez to slide in and force the ball into the empty net.
For the remainder of the half, the buoyant hosts took the game to Chelsea, who looked anything but a side in control of their destiny at the top of the table.
Mourinho, unsurprisingly, did not look pleased.
Few Costa performances would be complete without at least one moment of controversy and the Chelsea striker appeared to elbow the jaw of Hull midfielder Jake Livermore as the hosts defended a set-piece.
Courtois was at fault for Hull’s equaliser but he went a long way to atoning for his mistake with three brilliant saves in quick succession to deny Elmohamady, Livermore and Ramirez as Hull enjoyed their best spell of the second half.
Remy’s introduction came in the 74th minute, in place of Costa, and 92 seconds later, he scored the winner.
Fabregas’s pass allowed Willian to cross from the right.
Remy’s shot hit McGregor but squirmed through the goalkeeper’s legs and across the line.