By the time Willian bent his magnificent shot high to Neil Etheridge’s left, it had all started to feel straightforward for Chelsea. At first glance, they had done a fine job of undermining Maurizio Sarri’s pleas for patience once again. Eden Hazard had scored an irrepressible hat-trick, the sun was shining on Stamford Bridge and Chelsea were on their way to joining Liverpool at the top of the Premier League table.
Yet while the scoreline had the look of a rout, the reality was that this was not the performance of title contenders. Chelsea had strained to overcome a tough challenge from Cardiff City, who had dared to dream after Sol Bamba’s early goal, and it had not always seemed certain that they would maintain their impeccable start to the season.