Chelsea claimed a moral-boosting victory to ease the pressure on manager Jose Mourinho after thumping Maccabi Tel Aviv in their Champions League opener at Stamford Bridge. Despite Eden Hazard's missed penalty, Willian, Oscar, substitute Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas struck to give the Premier League champions their second win of the season ahead of the weekend visit of title rivals Arsenal.
With the Gunners opening their European account with defeat to Croatian minnows Dinamo Moscow, it was the perfect evening for Mourinho, who left out captain John Terry and Nemanja Matic yet still had enough to breeze past the Israeli champions. After Hazard ballooned his early penalty over the bar, Willian netted his first goal of the season as his left-wing free-kick flummoxed goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic and nestled in the corner.
Fellow-Brazilian Oscar made it two in first half stoppage time, converting from the spot after former Blue Tal Ben Haim felled Costa. Costa himself illuminated a rusty Chelsea display with a second half volley, his first in European competition for the club, which crashed in off the crossbar, after Fabregas's inch-perfect pass.
Fabregas turned goalscorer on 78 minutes when he tucked home after Rajkovic had denied Loic Remy from close range, ending a perfect night for the 2012 winners and starting their campaign in winning fashion. Though bigger challenges than the plucky Maccabi, in the form of weekend opponents Arsenal, are still to come the west Londoners showed glimpses to suggest their recent problems can become a thing of the past.
Returning to a competition that had treated him so well as a two-time winner, Mourinho needed the relative comfort of the Champions League more than ever as the Blues attempted to right the wrongs of their horrible start to the defence of their title. Three defeats from their opening five games had seen them fall 11 points behind leaders Manchester City, and the hope was a return to Europe would inspire an about turn in their fortunes.
Maccabi, starting a group campaign in the continent's premier club competition for just the second time, represented the inferior yet tricky opposition. The ease of the situation for the home side was assisted by the return of familiar faces in the form of ex-midfielder Slavisa Jokanovic - promotion winning manager with Watford last season - and defender Ben Haim who was among the last signings made by Mourinho during his first spell in west London.
Ben Haim almost repaid Chelsea for an inauspicious spell at the club immediately as he gave the ball away inside his own half, allowing Loic Remy to feed Willian who was felled by goalkeeper Predrag Rajkovic. The Serbian international escaped with just a yellow card and Tel Aviv survived going a goal down too, as Hazard skied his spot kick. But the early intensity from Chelsea meant the opening goal was an inevitability and it eventually came from Willian, whose whipped free-kick from the left-hand side evaded everyone in the penalty area an bounced past a desperate Rajkovic - whose good fortune finally run out.
Willian was subsequently replaced by Costa and though Maccabi showed few signs of getting back into the contest, it stifled Chelsea's movement and fluency as the half wore on. Eran Zahavi did carve out the best chance for the visitors however, but his errant header was uncharacteristically off target from 12 yards.
The Israeli Premier League champions would be made to pay, as in stoppage time at the end of the first half Ben Haim fouled a determined Costa in the box, after a lengthy period of sustained Chelsea pressure. Oscar then succeeded where Hazard had earlier failed, sending Rajkovic the wrong way to double the advantage.
The hosts continued to control the game following the break but it was Maccabi who threatened, albeit sporadically, as Nosakhare Igiebor failed to get proper contact on Avraham Rikan's goal bound volley. Once again, the lack of cutting edge was punished as Costa volleyed home expertly from Fabregas' cross.
Bertrand Traore came on for his European debut but despite the change Chelsea were still able to end the game with a flourish as Fabregas tapped home after Remy saw Rajkovic claw away his effort. Victory comes at the ideal time ahead of the visit of Arsenal but Mourinho will know he faces greater tests of his reputation in the coming weeks.