Chelsea and John Terry end on high as five-star Blues demolish Sunderland 5-1

Match Summary

Chelsea round off the title-winning season, and John Terry’s career at Stamford Bridge, in emphatic style with a 5-1 demolition of bottom-of-the-table Sunderland.

The Blues, knowing that if they won they would become the first Premier League side to ever win 30 matches in a 38-game season, fell behind early but re-grouped through Willian, Hazard and Pedro before Batshuayi put the icing on the cake with an injury-time brace late on.

It was the perfect ending to the season, with the Blues finishing on 93 points, as the division’s second-highest goalscorers and Courtois the goalkeeper with the most clean sheets, as Cahill and Terry both jointly lifted the Premier League trophy.

But the headlines will be dominated by the romantic farewell for Chelsea’s captain, John Terry, making his 717th and final appearance for Chelsea, who departed with a standing ovation and guard of honour in the 26th minute of the match, in line with his Chelsea shirt number.

Antonio Conte would have been forgiven for resting a few players for this dead-rubber, especially with an FA Cup Final to prepare for next week, but the Italian opted for a full-strength starting elevent in front of an adoring Stamford Bridge crowd for the final time this season.

However, it was not the start they were hoping for.

A Sunderland free-kick inside the first three minutes was not properly cleared by the Chelsea back-line, featuring John Terry for the final time, and Manquillo slotted home.

Whilst that was not in the script, this fixture has produced an average of 3.6 goals in the 31 Premier League meetings these sides have met for, and so it was no surprise to see another quick goal, this time in line with the script-writers.

Hazard won a soft free-kick from Jack Rodwell, but referee Neil Swarbrick gave it and Marcos Alonso shaped to shoot. Whilst the distance — 20 yards — was in his range, it cannoned back off the bar, and after some dallying by multiple Chelsea players, none of whom wanted to shoot, it fell to Willian to drive it past Pickford.

After the slow start, Chelsea soon found their gear.

Alonso was next to try and get involved from long range, whilst a Luiz disguised his free-kick, shaping to shoot but in reality finding Costa, who peeled away on the left-hand side but miscued his side-foot volley.

Corner after corner went Chelsea’s way as the Blues kept probing, and in truth it was no doubt from corners that John Terry had the best chance of a parting goal.

But he was not to get one.

Conte had been talking about preparing a “surprise” for this game, and it came in the 26th minute — John Terry’s Chelsea shirt number — when Cahill stripped off to come on for the departing Chelsea captain.

It was a move well-orchestrated — with Pickford making sure he kicked the ball out of play in time for a stoppage in play to occur, and then the Chelsea players formed their own little guard of honour for the Chelsea defender — but whilst the players were in-the-know, it did appear to take the Chelsea fans inside the ground by surprise, with many expecting a hurrah much later.

The game was starting to have a testimonial-like feel, but Costa brought things back to life with his ferocious nature, elbowing John O’Shea off the ball and getting a yellow card for his troubles.

The Sunderland defender could have had the last laugh on Costa and his club, though, when he nearly scored from another Sunderland set-piece, and Chelsea were struggling to deal with them into the second half, with Rodwell heading low and nearly catching Courtois by surprise.

But at the other end, the Chelsea talent shone through.

A long Willian ball presented a quick counter-attacking opportunity for Chelsea, with 2-on-2. Costa passed to Hazard, who was shown onto his outside smartly by the defender, with the Belgian wanting to cut in. Turns out the Belgian’s left foot is just as accurate, firing past Pickford to put Chelsea in the lead for the first time this match.

Conte then opted to preserve the big guns ready for next week’s Wembley showdown, with Costa and Hazard both departing, but their substitutes in Pedro and Batshuayi were no outsiders to the Chelsea title-winning team this season, and proved such by scoring or assisting three remaining Chelsea goals.

A Fabregas long ball left Lescott in a panic, needing to head the ball somehow with Pedro breathing down his neck, but the Englishman inadvertently sent it closer towards goal, and with Pickford off his line and in no man’s land, Pedro raced on to head in a third.

Batshuayi would make things worse for David Moyes’ 499th Premier League game as a manager, scoring twice in the final two minutes.

Pedro found the Belgian for the first one with an excellent reverse pass and Batshuayi beat the offside trap to slide home, whilst the icing on the game was a pure solo goal, collecting the ball on the right wing and cutting inside on his left foot to curl past Pickford.

It was a day of celebration: celebration for the emphatic win, celebration for the title-winning campaign, and more poignantly, celebration of a true Chelsea great in John Terry.

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

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Man of the Match

MICHY BATSHUAYI: Bit-part player? Judging by these last three games, I think not. Michy Batshuayi has had to bide his time to justify his £33 million price tag since his summer move from Marseille, but with the title-winning goal against West Brom, the Belgian only had half an hour on the field today and still bagged a classy brace. With Costa waving to the Chelsea fans on his substitution, could Batshuayi been Chelsea’s leading man next season? 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was in dreamland: “I dreamt this but I must be honest if you asked me on my first day at Chelsea if I would win the league and be in the final of the FA Cup, it [would have been] very difficult for me to imagine this. It is an amazing moment for us to celebrate this win, for me and the players. I think this change [three at the back] was very important for us. We found the right balance and every single player enjoyed this type of situation. It was a key moment for us.”

Terry deliver an emotional farewell speech: “I have been very fortunate to work with some unbelievable players and managers throughout my career. I am thankful to every single one of them. We all have to thank Roman Abramovich. I would like to thank him and all the board. He is the best owner in world football. I will come back here one day, supporting the team for years to come.”

Moyes’ emotions could hardly have been more contrasting: “I am a man who has just lost a game today and I am gutted at the way we have lost it. I am gutted that we have been relegated, I am really disappointed at the way the season has gone.”

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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 serve fans a seven-goal thriller in 4-3 homecoming victory against Watford

Match Summary

Chelsea made hard work, but ultimately gave their fans an entertaining match, of their first match back at Stamford Bridge since being crowned champions with a 4-3 win against Watford.

With Conte making nine changes since clinching the trophy just 72 hours prior, John Terry was restored to the line-up and made himself hero and villain inside 25 minutes, scoring the game’s first before gifting Capoue an equaliser moments later.

Azpilicueta and Batshuayi put daylight between the two sides but Jaanmart and Okaka had other ideas, before the seven-goal thriller was settled by Fabregas coming off the bench.

Whilst in other circumstances Conte will be disappointed Watford scored from all their shots on target, it proved to be a good run-out for his fringe men as his side equalled the league record of 29 victories in a season, set by the Blues themselves in the 2004-05 and 2005-06 seasons.

And with Sunderland to go at home on Sunday, there is every chance the Italian could go one better than Mourinho’s run and secure 30 wins.

The hosts were the division’s highest scorers going into the game with 76 goals, but even the most die-hard of Chelsea fans would not have expected this seven-goal spectacular, especially when noting the starting line-up omitted the likes of Costa and Pedro.

However the tone was set within three minutes by Willian, who was through on goal but cynically brought down to warrant the first yellow card on a busy evening for Lee Mason.

Whilst nothing came of that, great skill at Chelsea’s next attack between Batshuayi and Hazard could have yielded a goal but Hazard could not find the finish when he cut inside.

Batshuayi was then through on goal and his swivel and shot brought the corner from which Chelsea did break the deadlock. Willian’s outswinger was met, at the second attempt, by a flailing John Terry leg to score his first goal for Antonio Conte.

It was a romantic, if scrappy, goal, but the script-writer could not have timed it more perfectly for the Chelsea stalwart who is set the leave the club at the end of the season, for it was the 100th goal of Chelsea’s season, and 1,000th since Roman Abramovich took over, an era John Terry has been the lynchpin of.

Whilst the goal meant the Chelsea captain has now netted in each of his past 17 top-flight campaigns, he would undo the headlines, at least partially, by a momentary lapse in concentration which followed seconds later. A mix-up between Chalobah and himself when clearing the ball saw Terry head the ball too short back to Begovic and Capoue pounced to score just their second goal in 10 hours of action. Not so romantic after all.

Kante was clearly learning from Fabregas on the training field with a sublime Fabregas-esque  80 yard pass to Hazard, whose first touch let him down before Gomes smothered. The Belgian then was fed another delicious 80 yard ball by Willian, cutting inside but dragging wide of the near post.

Kenedy was seeking to establish himself in Conte’s plans for next season and whilst his shot was cleared by Gomes for a corner, it was from this set-piece Chelsea got their noses in front again. The ball fell kindly to Azpilicueta on the edge of the box and the Chelsea defender picked his spot and hammered it past Gomes from 20 yards for his first Premier League goal since January 2016.

The cushion became two early in the second half when Willian’s left-wing strike brought a good save from Gomes when it was destined to curl in, and from the corner Kenedy was urged to shoot. Whilst he did, he slipped and the stray shot found Ake who was deemed onside and the youngster unselfishly squared to Friday’s hero Batshuayi to tap in.

But Chelsea were clearly in party mode as once again Watford levelled within two minutes, with Jaanmart getting on the scoresheet after cutting in from the left.

Consistent Chelsea passages of play could not yet draw out the fourth goal but the hosts were probing. Hazard and Batshuayi got closest but Gomes saved with his feet from 5 yards, whilst Azpilicueta looked to grab his brace from 20 yards again but Gomes blocked this time.

Batshuayi nearly found Hazard racing clean through but for a last-ditch interception — it would have been a devastating counter attack — but Watford were in the mood to spoil a party when Okaka was introduced. Moments after coming on, the man who has played for Italy under Conte, scored against his former national team manager, latching onto a loose ball from a clever Cleverley dinked ball which none of the Chelsea back-three could deal with.

Conte introduced Aina and Fabregas in response and the latter magic man produced the goods once again, striking perfectly from the edge of the box as the game had one more goal in it.

Prodl got his marching orders in injury time for a second bookable offence, but the confetti came out soon after and the Chelsea fans could properly get into the party mood.

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

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Man of the Match

JOHN TERRY: I had to. Whilst he did play a big part in Capoue’s equaliser, the Chelsea captain has been a true stalwart and, in his penultimate ever Chelsea game, it was beautiful to see him roll back the years with a Terry-esque goal to break the deadlock. So scrappy but it sums up the Chelsea captain to throw his head at the ball and then be the first on the end of the loose ball to help his team out. A wonderful story. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte knew the important task had been achieved: “We conceded three goals but we scored four and created many chances. The most important thing was we won. Now we have target to win 30 games. The most important thing was to win the league. Then if we have the possibility to improve these records, we must try. We can reach this target. The players and I want to reach this target.”

Mazzarri enjoyed the spectacle: “I am very proud of my team. We had several players out injured. Congratulations to Antonio Conte because he is a great manager. They have great players. They deserve the title.”

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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 are champions in Conte’s first season after hard-fought 1-0 win at West Brom

Match Summary

Chelsea are crowned Premier League champions for the sixth time in their history, but were made to work for it with a slender 1-0 victory against West Brom.

The Baggies had to withstand 24 shots and surrendered 68% of the possession, but kept the Blues waiting until the 82nd minute, where unlikely hero Michy Batshuayi showed something for his £32 million price tag to score the title-winning goal.

It caps off a fantastic debut season in England for Antonio Conte, who becomes only the fourth manager to lift the Premier League trophy in his first season in England, and means Chelsea secure their fifth Premier League title in the last 13 seasons, a record only matched by Manchester United.

It was clear Chelsea wanted to win this from the off and leave two games spare to give fringe players a chance and, of course, give John Terry a proper farewell.

However it was not going to be a mere formality. 20 seconds Rondon leapt highest and Chelsea needed a tall goalkeeper in Courtois to to tip over the bar.

But, bar the initial lapse, it was Chelsea chance after Chelsea chance, but credit to West Brom’s disciplined defending.

Hazard drew a foul and an early free-kick opportunity for Fabregas was nearly turned in by Cahill, whilst Fabregas yet again tried to turn provider for Costa.

Pedro took matters in his own hands when he tried to re-create his spectacular opener against Everton last month, but saw his effort sky over the bar.

A marginal penalty claim for Chelsea was ignored by Michael Oliver, the Premier League’s most-used referee this season, whilst Azpilicueta was the next man to have a shot which was deflected behind for another corner.

The warning signs were there though on more than one occasion: Fabregas lost the ball high up in West Brom’s half but all of a sudden a West Brom counter saw two chasing down the solitary Gary Cahill, but Hazard did superbly well to track back and clear danger. Moments later there was another similar West Brom counter, an ominous sign for the visitors but indicative the Blues did not care if they drew or lost — they were here for the win.

More drama saw more set-pieces go Chelsea’s way, firstly Moses was brought down and Cahill had a good chance from the ensuing free-kick, whilst a penalty claim by Hazard, who went down under Evans’ challenge, was perhaps more 50-50. Michael Oliver was right on it.

West Brom were doing well to keeping Chelsea back, with the visitors resorting to long-range 25-yard drives by Azpilicueta or Fabregas. 11 attempts in the first half an hour summed up the persistence, but only one was on target whilst West Brom already had two from just three shots.

Being more clinical was what Chelsea needed to work on after the break and the first two chances went to Moses, who did brilliantly to evade Brunt and McLean but Foster’s hands were strong.

Luiz had to be alert at the other end when Fulham did have the odd chance, but it was West Brom who really had to be on their toes. Fabregas sliced a shot wide, whilst Hazard was nearly through which almost led a Dawson own goal.

The Blues were still huffing and puffing: Costa was found in the centre but dallied with his shot and failed to released Pedro who would have been in, whilst Fabregas was a fraction of a second too slow in releasing the ball to Hazard, who would have beaten the offside trap.

Late jitters gave West Brom the opportunity to steal the unlikely lead. Rondon was one-on-one with Luiz, who tried to bring him down which could have brought the red card, but the Venezuelan kept his footing and raced in on Courtois’ goal. Mercifully Azpilicueta got back.

Then, Chadli was again through on the right flank; another huge one-on-one chance but the former Tottenham man dragged it wide.

It looked like Conte would bring on Kante to sure up the defence which looked prone to a counter-attack, but the Italian was not messing about. Willian and Batshuayi came on, whilst Hazard and Pedro, for all their efforts, had been too well contained by West Brom.

But the night was Chelsea’s; Batshuayi would make his impact within six minutes of his introduction.

Having given the ball away multiple times and conceded three fouls in those six minutes, he would then prove to be the unlikely goalscorer and seal the trophy for Chelsea. The ball dropped nicely to Cahill in the centre of the goal, but his shot was skewed wide. Thankfully Azpilicueta was alert where Brunt was not, and the Spaniard recycled the ball which was not going to go out of play, squaring to Batshuayi to tap home from two yards out.

Five minutes of injury time prolonged the agony and delayed the celebrations, but the bubbly was to be popped open soon enough. Conte had conquered England in his debut season.

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

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Man of the Match

ANTONIO CONTE: Azpilicueta would probably go down as my Player of the Match, but the man underpinning tonight, and indeed the entire season’s success, has to go down to Antonio Conte. Tactics were on-point, as they were early in the season when he spootted the need to change to a back five, but on the night too, unafraid to take off Hazard and Pedro in the pursuit of a more direct option in Batshuayi. And it paid off in some style. 9/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was reflective: “This is a great achievement for the players. I thank them for their commitment and work rate. They show me a great attitude to try to do something great this season. It was not easy for me to arrive in England and try different habits, a different language and inherit players after a bad season. We were not lucky, we did a great job. It’s important to rest. It is a great season but now we can win the FA Cup.” On his animated touch-line antics: “Every game I feel like I have played with my players! I show my passion and my will, my desire to stay with my players in every moment of the game. This is me, I am this. In the present, in the past, I stay with my players in positive and negative situations. We won this title together.” On his switch of formation in October: “That decision changed our season. We had to change and find a new suit for our team. In my mind there was this option to play a 3-4-3 because I knew I had the players to do that.”

Pulis was full of praise for his counter-part: “They’re worthy champions alright. They had a poor start, and Conte had to change things. He has made it his team. He changed their shape and they’ve been superb from that moment onwards.”

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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 one win away from Premier League crown after battering Middlesbrough 3-0

Match Summary

Chelsea are just one win away from being crowned Premier League champions after a resounding 3-0 win against Middlesbrough, and in doing so sent the visitors down.

The Blues, whose slim 1-0 victory in the reverse fixture in November sent them top of the table for the first time in since winning the league in the 2014/15 season, surely confirmed that their name will once again be on the 2016/17 trophy, after a near-perfect performance.

With Tottenham slipping up on Friday, the Blues knew they needed to exploit the chance to extend the lead to seven points, and Costa, Alonso and Matic did just that, though Cesc Fabregas will take all the plaudits for another exceptional assist-making display.

It means Chelsea can secure their sixth league crown on Friday night away at West Brom, before Tottenham even have a chance to play again.

It was a match both sides needed to win for very difference reasons. For Middlesbrough, one would have expected a dogged, last-ditch attempt at survival. For Chelsea, one would have been forgiven if nerves crept in knowing Tottenham lost earlier in the weekend.

What transpire was totally the opposite: Chelsea oozing class from the off and Middlesbrough frankly all off and resigned to being relegated for a record-equalling fourth time.

One enforced change saw Fabregas come in for the injured Kante but the man is no inferior and needs no introduction. Inside 90 seconds, the Spaniard floated an exceptional cross-field ball right onto the foot of Alonso, who volleyed with great technique. Guzan pushed it onto the bar, but the warning signs were there because Fabregas was given simply too much space.

The 30-year-old could have taken a goal for himself when Hazard flighted a ball nicely to him but Fabregas, with acres of room and centrally inside the penalty area, opted to place rather than rifle and in the end got his angles wrong.

Costa was then inches away from tapping in Hazard’s square ball after the Belgian was found superbly by Azpilicueta, but he did not have to wait long to score the opening goal of a Premier League game for the seventh time this season, more than any other player. The Spaniard was found by his compatriot Fabregas who read the situation superbly and Costa just had to nutmeg Guzan. In doing so, it means Costa has become the third player to score 20+ goals in a Premier League season for Chelsea on two occasions.

The chances just kept coming. Moses and Hazard exchanged glorious one-twos but no-one was there to tap home from two yards, but it would get better. Azpilicueta found Alonso and left wing-back beat the offside trap well and slotted home his sixth goal of the season.

Just half an hour had been played but Chelsea were running riot.

Fabregas’ 70-yard ball to Moses was pinpoint, and the right wing-back should have done better when one-on-one with Guzan.

Would Chelsea step off the gas in the second half? No, Pedro would hit the cross-bar in the first minute of it. Then Alonso would drill a cross goalward and Costa was inches away from sliding in a third.

Cahill joined in on the action with a stunning 25-yard drive, whilst Fabregas’ try from a similar range was nearly deflected off Chambers’ head and nearly caught Guzan wrong-footed.

Matic would add the icing on the cake. From a short set-piece between Fabregas and Hazard, the former chipped the ball towards the Serbian, who chested it and then scored his first Premier League of the season.

When Courtois did have to make his first save of the game, it was a routine 30-yard drive, but all the action was the other way. Pedro blazed wide when on a counter-attack with Fabregas and Luiz, whilst Moses was denied by Guzan’s leg.

It could have been more, but Abramovich and Shevchenko was delighted, as was Ancelotti who was in the crowd, no doubt cheering on his compatriot Antonio Conte, who is on track for a debut-season double, just as Ancelotti managed in 2009-10.

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: The man has only had a bit-part say in Chelsea’s starting line-up, but his influence is huge. He may not get all the starts, but when called upon the Spaniard delivers. That is credit to his personality, for he could have sulked, and he summed it up beautifully in a recent interview: “I feel like I have matured a lot this year. Obviously I haven’t played every single game [but] the quality of my minutes whenever I have been on the pitch has been fantastic this season, my contribution maybe sometimes is even bigger than in full seasons where I have played every single game. I have had to have patience and accept these things happen.” More assists like tonight and Conte will have no choice but to make him a regular starter for next season. 9/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte knew tonight was a big chance: “We must be pleased. It was a great performance, my players showed commitment and work-rate for three important points. At this stage it was important to win and exploit Tottenham’s defeat. Now, another step to the title. We have to rest well and prepare for West Brom.”

Agnew was resigned: “I am absolutely gutted and bitterly disappointed with the result and we have now lost our Premier League status which we took great pride in.”

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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 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.

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.

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.

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 through to final after beating Tottenham 4-2 in thrilling FA Cup semi-final

Match Summary

Chelsea progressed to the final of the FA Cup with a hard-fought 4-2 win at Tottenham in a pulsating match at Wembley.

The Blues started off well with two goals by Willian but were pegged back by even better goals from Tottenham, firstly a Kane header and secondly an Alli strike, but Hazard and a Matic thunderbolt sealed the win late on.

It means Antonio Conte’s aspirations for a league and cup double are still on in his debut season, with Arsenal and Manchester City facing off tomorrow, but he did it the unorthodox way with Hazard and Costa left out of the starting line-up and instead using Willian and Batshuayi.

Spurs have won eight games in a row in all competitions, their best run since 1960, they have won just two of their last 16 meetings with Chelsea, and agonisingly now have lost seven FA Cup semi-finals in a row.

The last time these sides met in the FA Cup was at this stage in 2012, where Chelsea won convincingly 5-1 before winning the final against Liverpool.

A similar intent for victory was present from the off, with the Blues evidently keen to bounce back after last week’s tactical miscalculation against Manchester United, with Chelsea gaining the upper hand for the first quarter of an hour.

Pedro was instantly racing goalward inside three minutes, only to be hauled down by Toby Alderweireld, who Martin Atkinson gave an early yellow card to.

But Willian made sure the personal cost also went alongside a collective cost, curling the ball past the wall and beating Lloris’ near side. The goalkeeper should have done better, but take nothing away from Willian’s strike, which brought back memories of his set-pieces from yesteryear.

That could have soon become two but Michy Batshuayi was slow to react to Kante’s pass after a Vertonghen error, and the Belgian had another chance to assert his attacking abilities but fluffed his lines when presented with a free header, albeit he was in an offside position.

Chelsea had let-offs of their own in an open and frenetic first half: a stray Azpilicueta back-pass nearly was intercepted by Alli with the stand-in captain unaware of his surroundings, but the Chelsea defence had so far stood firm, making good tackles with Nathan Ake particularly impressing deputising for the injured Gary Cahill.

Kante was thankfully alive to a quick Spurs free-kick from Eriksen to Kane, but the next time these two partnered up Spurs would have their equaliser, with Kane adjusting his body to head in quite superbly past Courtois.

The goal galvanised Tottenham, who had a penalty appeal when Azpilicueta stuck out his leg with Kane in the box, but Atkinson was to preside over a fairly lenient game.

Vertonghen then delivered a beautiful ball which Dier glanced wide, but it was another let-off, as was two chances straight after that when Kane and Alli were both through.

Chelsea did regain the lead just before half-time though. Moses cantered forward and a late lunge by Son looked destined to be a spot-kick. Even though contact was light, Ian Hussin decided to award the penalty where Martin Atkinson was unsighted, but the ensuing kerfuffle was unsightly, with Batshuayi and Willian fighting over the ball, to be separated by Azpilicueta under Conte’s orders to give it to the Brazilian. Thankfully Willian made no mistake for his brace.

Lloris then made a real hash of a block and handled the ball outside of the box, but Hussin shied out of making this call.

It did not, however, take Tottenham long to get back into it after the restart, and again with a fantastic goal.

An assist-of-the-season contender by Eriksen found Alli, racing in between Luiz and Azpilicueta to control the first-time volley and hammering it past Courtois. It was a spectacular goal but disappointing Chelsea defending.

Spurs then appealed for two penalties and a free-kick, all waved away by Atkinson, whilst Pedro tried to get Chelsea back in front for the third time in the game, but was too slow in his counter.

On came Eden Hazard and Diego Costa at exactly the hour-mark point, and then later Fabregas for Pedro, but Spurs were still, at least initially, on front foot. A corner whipped in thankfully evaded everyone, whilst Dembele outmuscled his countryman Hazard when the latter tried to counter.

But Chelsea’s first corner, after 75 minutes, was to yield their third goal. The ball fell kindly to Eden Hazard, who was completely unmarked on the edge of the box and buried it in Lloris’ far post.

If that was a good strike Chelsea fans needed to wait only five minutes more for one of the best of their season. It took Matic until late-April to record his first goal of the season, but what a corker it was, receiving the square ball off Hazard and hammering it 30 yards out crisply, striking the under-side of the crossbar and nestling in the back of the net.

The Tottenham fightback petered out in the final ten and it was a question of whether Chelsea could inflict more misery and make it a five-star performance.

Hazard rounded Lloris, but the angle was too tight and his pull back to Alonso did not lead to anything, whilst Costa had a free header from two yards out.

Back-spin stopped a potent Kane free-kick from crossing the line and making Chelsea fans sweat for the final 60 seconds, but Chelsea did manage to cross the line, where they return to Wembley in five weeks’ time to fight for the trophy.

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

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Man of the Match

ANTONIO CONTE: Much was made of Conte’s decision to not start Hazard and Costa, and if it backfired the Italian would not have heard the last of it, but, in the same ilk as Mourinho trumping Conte by resting Ibrahimovic last week, did Conte mess up Pochettino’s entire week’s training by dropping Hazard and Costa for the first hour? Mind games or not, the effect worked, with substitute Willian scoring two goals and Hazard scoring the winner when he did come on. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was proud: “I am proud for this achievement. It is great for the players for me. This is my first season in England and it is great to fight for the title and reach the final of the FA Cup, a great competition. Eden and Diego knew very well my plan because in this situation it is important to be clear to all of the players.”

Pochettino was reflective: “Congratulations to Chelsea. We dominated the game but they were more clinical than us. I feel proud, we were fantastic in the way we played and in our philosophy.”

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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.