Chelsea edge closer to title with resounding 3-0 win at Everton

Match Summary

Chelsea overcame arguably their biggest test remaining with a comfortable 3-0 win against Everton, and their first clean sheet in 11 matches.

With Tottenham playing later this evening, the Blues had the chance to throw down the gauntlet at their London rivals, but were made to wait until the 66th minute before Pedro made a stunning break-through. In the end, Cahill and Willian rounded off the win, as too did Tottenham in their game against Arsenal.

It means it is as you were in the Premier League table, with still four points separating the two sides, but with Chelsea left to face sides currently 19th, 8th, 13th and 20th, it would appear Conte has passed his biggest test, as shown by his reaction at full-time.

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Koeman’s heaviest league defeats in charge of Everton came against Chelsea earlier this season, but any hope for a similar rout was too optimistic. In fact, inside a minute, Barkley worked the ball well to Calvert-Lewin who hit the post, and it needed Cahill to deny former Chelsea man Romelu Lukaku a tap-in.

Lukaku’s opposite number, Diego Costa, did soon get stuck into the action, but neither he, nor Hazard, nor an advanced Matic, could produce a real tangible chance. Costa then had another glorious opportunity but lashed wide.

Lukaku was not proving his former employers wrong to the extent he would have undoubtedly have liked, but he did go close from 25 yards.

Tit-for-tat ensued for the remainder of the first half with neither Courtois nor Stekelenburg troubled closed up, and it looked like if Chelsea were to get their noses in front, it would need something special from afar.

Enter Pedro.

25 yards from goal and collecting a pass from Matic, the Spaniard dallied around the edge of the penalty area, and with little options, decided to bring the ball onto his favoured left foot and just hoof it. It was a spectacular drive and one which nestled into the top corner.

That opened things up for the visitors, who had before then been well-contained by a good man-marking system employed by Koeman, but with the shackles off, Cahill pounced for another.

A low Hazard free-kick was saved by Stekelenburg but not smothered, and Cahill pounced quickest from two yards out to tap in.

With nine minutes remaining and Conte satisfied to sit on the two-goal advantage, Ake, Willian and Fabregas came on in quick succession, but the latter two would add further delight to their boss’ face with the third seconds after coming on.

Fabregas did well to drive the ball to Everton’s by-line, and a neat cut-back for Willian’s first-touch presented the Brazilian with an open goal to aim at with Stekelenburg dragged out of position by Fabregas.

Especially pleasing for Conte will be Chelsea’s first clean sheet in the Premier League for some three months, especially knowing Everton have averaged 3.7 goals per game at Goodison Park in 2017 prior to this defeat.

Next stop Middlesbrough, but Tottenham will play first, some 72 hours before the leaders kick off.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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Man of the Match

GARY CAHILL: The clean sheet cannot be underestimated against such a potent an attack as Lukaku and Everton, and with little defensive solidity from Chelsea for the past 11 Premier League matches, it is about time to recognise the contribution of Gary Cahill. Leading the line well in Terry’s continued absence, dealt with the threat of Lukaku all afternoon, and popped up with the big second goal to kill off all Everton hopes. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was staying calm: “We must be pleased because we played a game with the head and, at this part of this season, it is important to use our head, then your heart and then your legs. I think we must continue this way — to play game by game and take three points in every game. We know every win in this part of the season is very important. The road is long so we need to rest and prepare in the right way.”

Koeman saw positives: “We did well, until 1-0 maybe. After that we had more problems but that was all about their quality, before that we played well and made it tough for them. It is really tough to beat Chelsea.”

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Fan View

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

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© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Chelsea extend lead at top of table to 7 points with 4-2 win against Southampton

Match Summary

Chelsea put the pressure back on second-placed Tottenham with an entertaining 4-2 win against Southampton, extending their lead at the top of the table to 7 points with their title-chasers playing tomorrow.

The Blues continued their fine win against Tottenham at Wembley with a fast start thanks to Hazard’s goal inside five minutes, but ex-Chelsea man Oriol Romeu levelled the score.

Gary Cahill, and then two by Diego Costa, secured the points before another former Chelsea player Ryan Betrand added another consolation.

The win means Chelsea continue to be in pole position with five games remaining, but the lack of clean sheets — none in Chelsea’s last 11 Premier League games — is Chelsea’s worst record for more than two decades and will surely worry Antonio Conte.

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With Costa and Hazard rested for the huge majority of the morale-boosting FA Cup semi-final win against Tottenham just 72 hours earlier, Chelsea’s sharpest men should have been ready from the off.

And they certainly were.

Fabregas’ long ball to Costa was controlled by his fellow Spaniard, before the striker found Hazard in the box. Though the ball was slightly behind the Belgian, Hazard sorted his feet out and swept home the opening goal from 15 yards.

The 26-year-old could have added a second 10 minutes later but curled wide, and how his side was made to pay because Romeu was to pull a goal back half-way through the first-half. Sloppy play from a Southampton corner saw the ball run all the way to the far post to Gabbiadini, and a simple cross to Romeu left the Spaniard with just a tap-in to finish.

Matic nearly replicated his screamer from Saturday, whilst Kante turned into Lionel Messi with a mazy 40-yard run which ultimately bore no fruits. Hazard should have shown more of a killer instinct when one-on-one with Forster, but decided to pull the ball back to thin air.

It looked like both sides would go into the half-time interval honours even, but a Gary Cahill header changed things. Costa had tried to go for the ball with an audacious over-head kick, but captain Cahill barged his striker out of the way in favour of the more robust head. The ball nestled into Forster’s net and Chelsea would go into the half-time break with a different team-talk.

Things got better eight minutes into the second half when the old partnership of Fabregas and Costa linked up once more. The former found the latter, who in all honesty was poorly-marked inside the box, and from a standing start headed the ball past Forster to make it 3-1. It was his first Chelsea goal in eight games, but became his 50th in a Blue shirt.

A period of relative inactivity followed, dictated by Chelsea who were riding comfortably with the two-goal cushion — Pedro and Matic had shots — whilst John Terry was brought on to shore up the defence in the closing stages.

This was the 36-year-old’s first start since November, and comes soon after announcing he is to leave his boyhood club next month. Was this an early send-off?

Still, the football did the talking twice more for the final stages: a superb team goal involving one-twos with Costa and Hazard and then Costa and Pedro saw the forward then take the ball in his stride to fire past Forster to make it 4-1, but the gloss was once more taken off when Ryan Betrand headed home deep in injury time.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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Man of the Match

CESC FABREGAS: Pulls the strings effortlessly. The Spaniard was moved further forward for this game, with Matic and Kante protecting the back-four, and the Spaniard delivered in this more advanced role alongside Hazard, getting into dangerous positions and finding Costa on a number of occasions. Throw in another assist — only Ryan Giggs has more in the Premier League era — and it was all-round another good day for the midfielder and his team. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was confident: “It was a good win. Today I have to be pleased with the effort of my players. It wasn’t easy after a tough game against Tottenham. Southampton have good players and play good football. We must be confident for the future. It’s important to look at ourselves and not others.”

Puel understood the differences in quality of the two sides: “We played against a good team. Eden Hazard and Diego Costa made the difference today. I had the privilege to start Hazard at Lille. He has the same quality. He’s a fantastic player. At 16, he was the same.”

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Fan View

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

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© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chelsea leave it late with 87th minute Cahill winner to see off Stoke City 2-1

Match Summary

Chelsea extend their lead at the top of the table to 13 points, but they left it late against a stubborn Stoke City side.

Two set-pieces in the first half, one free-kick from Willian and one penalty by Walters, looked to be the only goals of the game as both teams would have to settle for a share of the spoils, but Cahill, who earlier gave away the penalty against Walters, atoned with three minutes left on the clock.

The Blues have won 18 of their 20 Premier League matches this season against the teams currently outside the top five, but only won two of their last seven games away to Stoke in all competitions, so it was no surprise to see a cagey match settled only in the 87th minute by a Cahill winner.

In the end though the Blues do march back to London with three points and, with title rivals playing later, a healthy 13-point gap with 10 games left to play.

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Costa, clearly incensed with the lack of protection, could not keep his mouth shut for much beyond a quarter of an hour, and Taylor showed him the early yellow card.

But whilst on a personal level Costa was unhappy, his side should have been in celebratory mood as Willian’s free-kick gave the visitors an early lead. Sensing opportunity and seeing a gap in Lee Grant’s goal, Willian took his set-piece quickly and Grant fumbled the ball into his own net in a comical goal, but they all count as Willian, who scored twice against Stoke on New Year’s Eve, wheeled away to celebrate.

The Potters have kept three clean sheets in their last four league games, but the record was not to be preserved here. It could have got worse had Victor Moses’ shot not been blocked. Alonso then was on the receiving end of a well-worked set-piece by Willian, but shot straight at Lee Grant when anywhere else and it would have been a second.

Costa nearly laid on a perfect through-ball to Pedro, who was on the move and would have been one-on-one, but Stoke had their opportunities, especially when Arnautovic squared a ball into the box before Kante intercepted.

Stoke then thought they had equalised, but a superb call by assistant Adam Nunn denied the goal. On initial viewing it looked like Nunn’s flag was raised for offside, but goalscorer Martins Indi was not, but the foul appeared to have been instead about Berahino’s push on Azpilicueta, with the Englishman offside and interfering with play by stopping Apilicueta potentially getting to the ball before Martins Indi did.

It was a superb call, but Stoke would be on the receiving end of a favourable refereeing call minutes later.

A free-kick floated in looked long and was to be Courtois’ all day, except Gary Cahill wanted to make sure Walters could not reach it by pushing him over. Chelsea have only given away one spot-kick this season but, despite no protestation, Taylor awarded Walters the spot-kick, and Walters himself blasted home.

The Blues have kept just two clean sheets in their last nine league games, having recorded 10 shut-outs in the previous 12 matches, but despite the defensive frailties the attacking prowess was still on show.

Pedro had two great chances, one with each foot, from 10 yards out but was inaccurate, whilst later on in the match the Spaniard was slow when one-on-one and allowed Cameron to get back.

Luiz was clever to read a cut-back by the Stoke attack and broke up play effectively, but the second half was as evenly-pegged as the first.

Pedro was then nearly fed through by Willian but for Pieters to haul him down, bringing him a yellow card, whilst Alonso was agonisingly close to doubling his side’s lead from a free-kick, with the crossbar still rattling for several seconds afterwards.

Matic tried his hand at a long-range speculative shot just as Cesc Fabregas was about to enter the fray as Conte looked to press on.

Pedro and Willian were again continuing to be at the thick of things, but evidently missing Eden Hazard, who had to miss today’s game with an unspecified injury.

Loftus-Cheek then came on in a rare appearance, but Stoke were well-organised and well-drilled.

But for all their huffing and puffing, there was last-minute heart-break as Gary Cahill atoned for his earlier penalty giveaway with a right-footed shot from inside the box. Loftus-Cheek did well to pressure Pieters to give away a corner, and from Willian’s delivery Cahill slammed home the loose ball.

Costa, aiming for his 50th Premier League goal, then hit the post, before Bardsley was sent off late on for picking up a needless second yellow card, but victory will be sweet for Antonio Conte, with his side digging out the points as, some would say, the mark of champions.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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Man of the Match

WILLIAN: Huffed and puffed and, alongside Pedro, at the centre of every Chelsea action. Not given much game time under Antonio Conte, with Pedro and Hazard when fit preferred as the two support men for Costa, but the Brazilian today showed perfectly why he can put in a shift too, being smart to take his goal from the free-kick and an all-round excellent display, getting into shooting positions and weaving his way in and out of defenders with ease due to a quick change of pace. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was not getting ahead of himself, but enjoyed the win: “I am pleased because to play Stoke at this point of the season, you have to be prepared mentally and physically. It was a tough game We need to take 21 points for the title win. There are 10 games to go, today was a great win, a good signal but it is important to continue with the same commitment and work rate as a team.”

Hughes rued the loss: “We are desperately disappointed we did not get anything out of the game.It was an evenly matched game and they had late opportunities when we went for a goal. It is Chelsea’s title now and you could see from their celebrations we ran them close.”

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Fan View

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

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© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Costa returns with a goal as Chelsea earn hard-fought 2-0 victory against Hull

Match Summary

Chelsea go eight points clear at the top of the table after a hard-fought 2-0 win against Hull City.

The Blues, who won the reverse fixture also by 2-0, will hope fortunes after similar to that match in October, where the Blues then went on to win 13 matches in a row having switched to a 3-4-3.

And after seeing title rivals Liverpool, Tottenham, Manchester City and Manchester United all drop points this weekend, it was the perfect opportunity for Conte’s men to extend their lead at the summit of the Premier League.

Diego Costa broke the deadlock deep into first-half injury time to silence his critics of recent weeks, whilst Cahill wrapped up the points late into the second half as the Blues record their 13th clean sheet of the season.

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Chelsea have won their last seven at home, whilst Hull have lost their last eight league games away, and whilst anyone would be forgiven for thinking this may be a walk in the park, it was anything but.

The reverse fixture sparked a Chelsea revival after bitter losses to Liverpool and Arsenal, with the Blues winning 14 of the 15 Premier League matches after that with this new-look 3-4-3 formation, and it was clear the Blues were keen to spark another good run, with Costa firing just wide after only 15 seconds.

It was the Spaniard’s 100th Chelsea appearance and, after a week of intense media speculation about his future in SW6, it was evident the Spaniard was intent to let his feet do the talking now he was back in the squad.

Hull have been on a mini-revival themselves under new coach Marco Silva, and Huddlestone nearly continued that in the eighth minute with a weaving run and fine strike from 20 yards out.

A lengthy stoppage then ensued when Mason and Cahill clashed heads — the former coming off worse — and play was stopped for some nine minutes and Mason was eventually substituted.

Maguire has proven very capable with his feet and a mazy run from him brought about a good corner kick opportunity, but nothing doing.

Marcos Alonso then looked to continue where he left off after last week’s brace against Leicester with a fizzing volley that took a wicked deflection off the Hull back-line but was eventually tipped over. The Spaniard then combined neatly with Eden Hazard but, once the Belgian got to the by-line, he could do nothing further with the ball and the action petered out.

Pedro was clumsily hacked down inside the penalty area but Swarbrick was unmoved as a Hull’s goal was under siege as Luiz also went close with a header, but the hosts opted to walk the ball into the net which saw spaces crowded out.

One man who did have the ball in the net was Costa, but he was adjudged offside. The call was marginal.

But the 28-year-old would not be denied for much longer. Moses was proving to be a handful down the right wing and he squared a ball to a totally free Diego Costa, who swept home from 10 yards in the seventh minute of nine injury time minutes added on. Hull have not kept a clean sheet in any of their last 19 Premier League matches, and it was not about to stop here.

It was a sucker-punch to Hull’s game but they came out reinvigorated in the second half. Meyler stung Courtois’ hands, whilst Alonso nearly turned sinner by nearly fouling a Hull player in the box. Swarbrick was again equally unmoved.

1-0 was not a safe scoreline and Chelsea were not content to sit on the fragile scoreline. Costa had three shots in a row all smothered by the defence of Hull, but danger signs were ringing when Dawson was totally free at the back-post to drive a shot at Courtois’ goal.

Fabregas came on for an ineffective Hazard to shore matters up, but he added more than defensive solidity by popping up with his 31st league assist for Chelsea from a free-kick. The Spaniard swung in a delicious ball and Gary Cahill was totally unmarked to nod it past Jakupovic. Chelsea have scored 47 league goals this season, but this was only the fourth headed goal, a far cry from Chelsea of yesteryear with the likes of Terry, Ivanovic, Cahill and Drogba all nodding it in and epitomising the new Chelsea’s desire to play with the feet.

The Blues have kept 12 Premier League clean sheets this season, more than any other side and no team in Europe’s top five leagues has kept more, and so preserving it was undoubtedly at the top of the agenda now the points looked to be secured. In truth it could have been secured more handosmely had Costa shot more accurately, or indeed squared to a free Willian, from an excellent Fabregas through-ball, but Conte will take the victory in a weekend where most title challengers dropped points.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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Man of the Match

diego-costa-thumbnailDIEGO COSTA: No real Chelsea player stole the limelight today, but given recent surroundings of Costa, would the media speculation of him going to China influence his performance negatively? Even though he was not at his most sharp, the Spaniard still knew where to pop up and when, breaking the deadlock deep into first-half injury time that set his side off and a large part of Chelsea’s eight-point lead at the top of the table is down to this man. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte expects a tougher 2017: “This game was very difficult for us. It is not easy to play this type of game. I think our opponent played very good, good organisation and made it difficult for us. We are in the second part of the season and every game is now very tough for us and also for the other teams. You can see today the difficulty all of the teams have.”

Silva was motivational: “It was not what we wanted from the game. We came here to compete, to take points. In some moments we controlled the game. It was a good performance but I want more.”

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Fan View

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

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© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2016. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chelsea beat Stoke 4-2 in New Year’s Eve spectacular

Match Summary

Chelsea build up a nine-point lead at the top of the Premier League table with a hard-fought 4-2 victory against Stoke as the fans witness a six-goal New Year’s Eve thriller.

Cahill broke the deadlock for the hosts in the first half, but Martins Indi, and later Crouch when Willian gave Chelsea the advantage again, both pegged the hosts back. In the end, another Willian goal and a Costa strike settled the points in Chelsea’s favour.

It means the Blues have now won 13 Premier League matches on the bounce, one shy of Arsenal’s Premier League record set in 2001-02, and Conte will hope the winning form continues into the new year, despite tougher tests against Tottenham, Leicester and Liverpool to come in the first month of 2017 alone.

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Chelsea did not beat Stoke in either of the two league games last season, and so to prolong the club-record winning streak — the Blues’ tally of 46 points after 18 games is the second highest in Premier League history, bettered only by the same club’s 49-point haul in 2005-06 — was not going to be a procession.

The dogged and determined side of Stoke was apparent from the off. Bar the odd half-chance, the opening became a tactical battle in the middle of the park. Kante dragged a shot wide before it was pinball in the Stoke penalty area, with Fabregas’ cross-field ball controlled beautifully by Costa, who got his shot away only for it to be acrobatically saved by Lee Grant, who also managed to hold onto the rebound.

Cahill then had a header saved from a Fabregas corner, and whilst this time it proved fruitless, the next combining of these two players proved much more fruitful.

A 90-yard Luiz ball to Costa was quite superb, with the Spaniard’s shot smothered by Grant, who then made a double-save to deny Hazard’s follow-up. The ensuing corner though brought about the goal, with Fabregas’ again finding Cahill and this time Cahill finding the back of the net.

The game could have been quite different had Charlie Adam done much better from a Stoke corner moments before the goal, heading wide from a Shaqiri corner with the goal gaping.

However it remained the one-goal advantage going into the break, but whatever Mark Hughes said at half-time clearly paid off as it was all square within a minute of the restart.

Adam fed a delightful upfield ball to Crouch, to towered above Cahill to square to Martins Indi to tap in with his left foot. The Blues have kept 10 clean sheets during their current club record 12-match winning streak, conceding just two goals and scoring 28, but there was to be no clean sheet here.

Morever, there appeared to be a very real chance the record was to be stopped unless Chelsea could get their noses in front again.

Fabregas again had another opportunity to swing the ball in from a corner, and after Moses slalomed his way through a multitude of Stoke players, the ball fell for Willian to side-foot, but the Brazilian hit the ball wide. It was a great opportunity.

Fret not as on the 57th minute Willian did score, and what a great team goal it was. Moses had not been having much luck on the right against Pieters, but after dummying his opponent and flooring the giant Dutchman, Moses squared to Hazard, who cushioned the ball to Willian to blast home.

It should have been three had Hazard done better at capitalising on a sloppy Johnson pass, or indeed later from a sloppy Crouch pass, but with Mark Hughes sending on Bojan and Imbula just after the hour mark, you sensed things were heating up a notch.

Costa failed to dig the ball out of his feet after great link-up play between him and Hazard, but one man who did manage to dig up a goal, his first in 22 appearances, was Peter Crouch, sidefooting home after Stoke broke down Chelsea’s left. It was a sloppy goal for Chelsea to concede against their former ball-boy, and once again Chelsea were pegged back.

But within 75 seconds, the hosts were again in front, and it was that man Willian again. The Blues raced forward and Fabregas, with his 100th Premier League assist, laid on a beautiful ball to Willian, who aimed high so Lee Grant could not reach it. It was raining goals at Stamford Bridge.

Costa should have made things comfortable after running the full length of the pitch to get onto the end of a Hazard tee-up, whilst Conte opted to shore up proceedings by sending on Ivanovic and Chalobah, and rightly so as two tough crosses kept Chelsea alert at the back, with Azpilicueta doing superbly to get a toe-poke on a Johnson cross before it looked set to reach Crouch and hit the back of the net.

In the end Costa had the final say, creating a goal from quite nothing. A throw-in found the Spaniard with his back to goal, but he bullied Martins Indi out of it and, from a tight angle, unleashed a quite superb shot that flew into the back of the net, and sent Conte flying into the crowd.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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Man of the Match

willian-thumbnailWILLIAN: The man may have fallen down the pecking order under Antonio Conte with the rightful resurgence of Pedro, but the Brazilian does not half give himself a good shift when he does play. Time will tell if Conte wants to shift his line-up but with more performances like this, high energy, quick turns of pace and lethal finishes, not to mention excellent set-pieces, the Brazilian will be giving his manager headaches. Took his two goals superbly today and relieved the pressure on his side at exactly the right moments. 8/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was thrilled his side could adapt to a different type of winning: “My players showed they can adapt to the different kinds of game we face. They showed great commitment, work-rate and will to win. To win 13 games in a row in this league is very difficult. Stoke played very well. They hit long balls to Crouch and fought for the second ball.”

Hughes rued his side’s mistakes: “We got back level, but then conceded poor goals. We’ve made mistakes and good teams punish you. I thought we did really well, showing courage to get back in the game.”

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Fan View

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

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© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2016. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chelsea knocked out of EFL Cup in 2-1 defeat at West Ham

Match Summary

Chelsea bow out of the EFL Cup in limp fashion with a 2-1 away defeat to West Ham, in a match overshadowed by yet more crowd disturbances.

The Blues, who had 53% and 16 shots to West Ham’s 13, were undone by two early goals at the start of both halves, with Kouyaté edging the Hammers ahead before Fernandes doubled, leaving Cahill’s injury-time goal a mere consolation.

It means the Blues’ run in the League Cup ends in this last-16 stage as Conte’s men re-group to focus on the Premier League, having made seven changes for tonight’s cup game.

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Chelsea lost on their last visit to face West Ham, and despite the new venue, West Ham were in good control for the 90 minutes, going a goal ahead within the first 11.

Kouyate’s header started proceedings for the hosts in front of a rapturous but troublesome home crowd as Conte’s game-plan was torn to shreds.

That game-plan focused on rotating his side, with the break in Premier League action affording starts for Chalobah, Aina and the returning trio of Terry, Willian and Oscar, but the 5-2-3 system stuck.

Terry had an opportunity from a set-piece whilst N’Golo Kante was keen to press on from his superb goal at the weekend against Manchester United, going forward and stinging the hands of Randolph.

West Ham continued pressing and one nearly became two twice from either Antonio or Payet, but the third chance was the best when Antonio squared a ball to Lanzini who fluffed his lines with half an hour played.

The pressure was not alleviating but Kante had a presentable opportunity but instead he decided to pass than shoot. Batshuayi, leading the line with Costa rested, was resorted to long-range efforts.

West Ham’s first-half superiority only brought about one goal but two minutes into the second half they had their just rewards. Payet raced forward and his shot was expertly saved by Begovic, but West Ham regrouped where Chelsea did not and the ball fell kindly to Fernandes who cut inside past Aina to strike home.

Conte was not departing the competition without a fight and so on came Costa, Hazard and Pedro. Oscar had a penalty claim waved away, whilst Willian wasted a good chance to claw Chelsea back into it with a quarter of an hour left to play.

Chelsea grew and grew but time was against them, with Terry heading wide and Costa slipping when one-on-one, and the pain of these missed chances were ever more felt when Chelsea did get a goal back through Cahill’s prod home from a corner.

Had Chelsea buried one of their other chances late in the game it might have turned to extra-time but instead Chelsea turn back to SW6 knowing their name will not be in the quarter-final hat this season, a feat they have reached in four of the last five seasons.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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Man of the Match

asmir-begovic-thumbnailASMIR BEGOVIC: Despite conceding two goals, given the relative mish-mash of the defensive in-front of him, which included Aina, Chalobah, a returning Terry and even Oscar becoming defensive midfielder later on in the game, Begovic did make some good saves to stop the score-line becoming worse, notably saves from Noble and Obiang. The relative shame is the Bosnian still cannot provide sufficient enough competition for the complacent Courtois. 6/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte still saw some positives: “The performance was good because we knew they would play a strong game, but I think we played with a good intensity and created many chances to score a goal,’ said Conte. ‘I saw a good spirit in my players because until the end they tried to change the result. Tonight we were a bit unlucky.”

Bilic knew where the game was won: “We were really good in keeping the ball and stretching them and playing wide. In the first half it was great and I think we deserved to be more than one up.”

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Fan View

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

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© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2016. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Chelsea hit Manchester United for four in unhappy Mourinho return

Match Summary

Chelsea dispatched Manchester United in expert fashion with a fantastic victory against Manchester United, inflicting on Jose Mourinho his greatest Premier League loss.

The former Blues boss was greeted with a warm reception on arrival, but once the match kicked off, pleasantries were no more as Pedro broke the deadlock after 30 seconds. That was followed with goals from Cahill, Hazard and Kante, as Mourinho’s game plan was torn to shreds.

It means Conte’s men now rise into the Top Four, with the top five separated by just one point, whilst Mourinho’s men languish behind in seventh, marking an unhappy return to SW6 for the Portuguese.

Embed from Getty Images

It was the perfect first-half for Chelsea, who spoiled Mourinho’s homecoming from the off within 30 seconds.

A hopeful punt upfield by Macros Alonso looked innocuous enough, but when Pedro saw an opportunity Daley Blind did not, the Spaniard lost his marker, rounded the onrushing David De Gea, and slotted home an expert goal to bring about the season’s quickest goal to date in his 50th game for Chelsea.

It was a statement to make for Chelsea, who needed to show their big-game mentality after the top losses against top-level opponents in Liverpool and Arsenal earlier in the season, but it was just the start Conte would have dreamt.

Thibaut Courtois has not conceded since Conte switched to his system of five at the back, but Manchester United had aerial threats in abundance and set-pieces were a big source for concern amongst the home faithful, especially when Ibrahimovich climbed over Azpilicueta to head narrowly over.

Valencia was United’s biggest threat with some dangerous crosses down the right, but Chelsea’s wing-backs themselves were doing a great job, as demonstrated when Moses’ corner nearly became an assist had Hazard been more precise with his shooting.

Moses, Pedro and Costa were working together beautifully at every open-play opportunity but the game’s second goal would come from the stand-in captain Gary Cahill, who rifled in from a corner after losing Smalling. Only 21 minutes had been played.

The remainder of the first half was about the visitors clinging onto the 0-2 loss but it no easy feat, with Pedro, Moses and Hazard all nearly finding Costa; Daley Blind was having a nightmare on the left.

Rashford, who had not even made his first-team debut the last time these two sides met in February, was enjoying playing against Chelsea for the first time and nearly got his side back into it but opted to place his shot rather than go for power, and the Chelsea defence smothered.

Herrera then was resorted to a long-range effort — one which Courtois should have done better saving — but made amends with a good reflex save from Lingard’s rebound.

Costa should have made it three right on the stroke of half-time when he controlled a Luiz free-kick beautifully, and the story was the same at the start of the second half except this time Costa did have the ball in the net but from an offside position.

Mourinho responded in the interval by introducing Mata, and 10 minutes later Rojo, but Chelsea were in a good position to dictate, albeit fortunate to still have 11 men on the field after a horror Luiz challenge.

Really quick break saw the four of Moses, Kante, Costa and Hazard bear down on the two last men of Manchester United, and whilst Moses delivered a good ball, Hazard’s shot was blocked.

Lingard had a fierce shot well saved but all the goals were at the other end as two became three.

Mata and Valencia were caught ball-watching as Hazard exchanged a one-two off Matic before cutting in past Smalling and firing home in classic Hazard style, but still in unstoppable fashion despite surely the predictability.

The icing on the cake came through a delightful Kante maiden goal for his new side. The Frenchman waltzed his way through the United back-line before side-footing past De Gea. It was an expert goal and it was four.

What are your thoughts from the game? Leave your thoughts in the Comments section below!

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Man of the Match

logoENTIRE CHELSEA TEAM: For all the talk Mourinho came back with something to prove, the largely unchanged Chelsea squad needed to prove their qualities too, and boy did they do that. Right from the back with soms excellent defending by Moses and Alonso — whose roles seriously cannot be underrated in this 5-2-3 set-up — to Hazard and Costa, Chelsea were a pleasure to watch. And we have not always said that of late. 9/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was ecstatic: “I am pleased with the performance, we started well, moved the ball quickly, created chances to score the goal. I see the commitment in training and the players deserve this. We are improving, we must continue to work, only through the work we can improve. It is very important after the Arsenal and Liverpool defeats, it was important to understand our mission.”

Mourinho knew his new side lost the game after 30 seconds: “It started badly after a few seconds. We were coming to have an offensive approach, we wanted to create chances… [but] we made incredible defensive mistakes, individual mistakes and you pay for that.” On his reception, Mourinho said: “It was fine, I was not expecting anything different here. The crowd behaved in a normal way.”

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Fan View

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had five years’ blogging experience, writing for the likes of Bleacher Report and SWOL. He runs his own Chelsea blog — The Chelsea Chronicle — which has match reaction and analysis from every Chelsea match. You can follow him on Twitter.

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© Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle, 2011-2016. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this Blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Martin Li and The Chelsea Chronicle with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.