Chelsea overcame a bizarre defensive mix-up to cash in on a controversial goalkeeping incident and a ferocious display of finishing fire-power to eventually subdue Cardiff City and move into second place on an entertaining afternoon in west London.
Perhaps it was all too much for Jose Mourinho, sent to the stands by referee Anthony Taylor for dissent after stepping beyond his technical area to harangue the official who had appeared to warn Branislav Ivanovic for time-wasting. Mourinho was, at least, able to admire his side's newly-acquired predatory instincts alongside some delighted Stamford Bridge customers in the East Stand as Oscar and Eden Hazard applied a bright blue sheen to the final scoreline. It all seemed a long time after Jordan Mutch had shocked Stamford Bridge with a 10th-minute opener. Hazard levelled before half-time but the lively Welsh side were giving as good as they got until Mourinho's second-half tactical rejig was followed by Samuel Eto's first goal for the club. Chelsea's embarrassment had come in the 10th minute when Ramires directed a firmly struck but nevertheless routine back-pass at David Luiz. He allowed the ball to roll past him and into the path of Jordan Mutch, who lifted a neat finish over Petr Cech.
Hardly the way for him to celebrate his 300th Premier League appearance. At the start of a testing week that brings a Champions League visit to Schalke and a league meeting with Manchester City back at the Bridge next Sunday, this was hardly the type of defensive solidity that Mourinho is looking for. Chelsea had been toiling for a breakthough when it arrived, in controversial fashion, in the 33rd minute.
Cardiff goalkeeper David Marshall bouncing the ball, prior to making a clearance, found Eto'o nipping in to steal it away. Eto'o sidestepped thekeeper before being bundled over by Gary Medel. That would surely have been a penalty but the question was academic as Hazard steered home. Marshall, who had escaped when appearing to handle Frank Lampard's long through-ball outside his penalty area two minutes earlier, had his head in his hands. Malky Mackay stood flummoxed on the touchline. Chelsea lived dangerously at times.
Peter Odemwingie would have had a second but for a clawing save by Cech that kept out his flicked header from Peter Whittingham's free-kick. An uncomfortable looking Luiz received a yellow card for blocking Aron Gunnarsson in full flight just before the interval. On the hour, Chelsea looked static as substitute Kim Bo-Kyung ran to the edge of the area only to shoot badly wide. Chelsea, however, had rich options on the bench and Mourinho acted decisively around the hour mark, sending on Oscar and Fernando Torres in quick succession, and switching briefly to a three-man defence. It was enough to unlock Cardiff, with three well-struck goals following in a devastating 16-minute spell. Cardiff contininued to press but were cut apart when Chelsea launched rapid counter-attacks.
Eto'o was first, taking a pass from Hazard and stepping away from Steven Caulker to finish with a powerful, low shot in the 66th minute. Oscar gave Chelsea breathing space with a superb rising effort that flicked in off the underside of the crossbar 12 minutes later, and four minutes after that, the outstanding Hazard cut in from the left to fire low under Marshall's body.
Mackay, whose preparations had been overshadowed by the controversial replacement of his head of recruitment, Iain Moody, with Alisher Apsalyamov, who is believed to have no football experience, by owner Vincent Tan, said: "I'm proud of the players today. I am pleased with the way we have settled into the Premier League. Today we showed tactical nous and a real competitive edge."
Chelsea (4-2-3-1) Cech 6; Ivanovic 6, Luiz 5, Terry 6, Bertrand 6 (Torres 64); Ramires 7, Lampard 6; Mata 6 (Oscar 59), Willian 6, Hazard 8; Eto'o 7 (Azpilicueta 69). Subs Schwarzer (g), Essien, De Bruyne, Cahill. Booked Luiz. Cardiff City (4-4-1-1) Marshall 4: Theophile-Catherine 5, Caulker 5, Turner 5, Taylor 5; Cowie 5, Gunnarsson 6 (Gestede 80), Medel 5 (Bo-Kyung 56), Whittingham 5; Mutch 6; Odemwingie 5 (Campbell 67). Subs Lewis (g), Hudson, Noone, Maynard. Booked Cowie, Marshall. Referee A Taylor (Manchester).