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 suffer shock 2-1 home loss to Crystal Palace

Match Summary

Chelsea’s run of 10 consecutive Premier League victories at home come to a shock end as Crystal Palace fight back to win 2-1 at Stamford Bridge.

Fabregas ensured the hosts got off to the perfect start after five minutes, but Crystal Palace won on their last trip to Chelsea in August 2015 and would do so again, with two goals in two minutes soon after, firstly by Zaha before Benteke delivered the killer blow.

Six of the last seven meetings between these two sides have been settled by single-goal margins, but despite a second-half Chelsea onslaught, Conte could not pick up where Chelsea left off before the international break.

The Blues have kept just two clean sheets in their last 10 league games, having recorded 10 shut-outs in the previous 12 matches, and this loss, coupled with a tricky-looking fixture against Manchester City on Wednesday, proves the title race is far from over, with the lead currently standing at seven points.

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It was a frenetic start to the match, with the outcome decided in all but 12 minutes. Chelsea poked their noses in front first, started off by a wonderful long ball by Fabregas to Hazard, who controlled and waited until the Spaniard caught up with play, squaring the ball back to Fabregas to tapped home from three yards out. It was sound a simple goal, but it was expertly done between the two men supporting Diego Costa up top.

They say you are at your most vulnerable straight after you have scored a goal, and if complacency did creep into Chelsea’s play, it should not take away from a fine individual goal by Wilfred Zaha just four minutes later.

With the ball lost by Matic, Benteke and Zaha were tightly marked but the latter shrugged off Alonso and Azpilicueta and, with the smallest window of opportunity, leathered it past Courtois.

One became two just moments later as Chelsea were stunned. Two-on-two again after a swift counter-attack, Benteke and Zaha ran rings around Luiz and Cahill, with this time the latter turning provider for the former. Benteke, now one-on-one with Courtois, still had a lot of work to do, but lifted the ball over his Belgian compatriot with aplomb. The 26-year-old scored against Chelsea home and away last season whilst playing for Liverpool, and despite having only scored one goal in his last 13 league games this campaign, was returning to haunt Chelsea agin.

The match did not let up after such a busy start. Pedro should have been granted a penalty when his shot was blocked by Townsend’s arm — Craig Pawson denied it — whilst Hennessey did brilliantly to stop Costa’s shot after he was found by Fabregas.

The onslaught kept coming: Alonso, Matic and Azpilicueta all had noteworthy chances, as too did the expected Hazard and Costa. The Blues would rack up 11 shots on target to Crystal Palace’s three, but Hennessey was not budging.

Conte had seen enough and decided a tactical switch early in the second half: Willian on for Matic and a switch in formation.

That nearly instantly backfired when Crystal Palace could have put the game to bed, with Puncheon finding Zaha one-on-one with Courtois but this time the Belgian stood tall.

Batshuayi then came on as Crystal Palace looked to defend their lead in the closing quarter of an hour, but Costa nearly broke in from a Hazard cross, but somehow skewed his free header well wide.

Goal-mouth scrambles ensued as Pedro’s cross was hurriedly cleared, but despite the seven injury-time minutes, Chelsea could not find a way back, meaning the visitors claim four straight Premier League wins, a feat last achieved 24 months ago. It also means Sam Allardyce becomes the first manager to win a Premier League match against Chelsea with four different clubs. Conte will be hoping to take revenge against Manchester City, and Pep Guardiola, on Wednesday.

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: With Willian only just returning from international duty, Fabregas was given the opportunity to be one of the two supporting men for Diego Costa, and the ex-Arsenal ace does not take long to make an impact, does he? Sublime cross-field ball to Hazard that covered the length of the field, and the awareness to get on the end of it was superb. Did cause Crystal Palace problems thereafter, but could not do enough to drag his side back into it. 6/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte felt this was one of those days: “This is football. We must accept this result. We scored our goal after five minutes and then we conceded two in a few minutes. When you concede goals in that way you must understand the situation and improve on these mistakes. In every game in England, anything can happen. The league is so strong.”

Allardyce was pleased his side did not cave in: “I think our performance is typical of what seems to be the character of the side. The determination has shone through. The defence was outstanding, the goalkeeper was outstanding. The game plan worked exceptionally well.”

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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 secure nervy 3-1 win against Swansea as Fabregas shines in rare start

Match Summary

Chelsea go 11 points clear at the top of the Premier League table after a nervy 3-1 win against a resurgent Swansea City.

Fabregas opened the scoring before Llorente equalised on the stroke of half-time, but it took the hosts a while to put the game to bed before Pedro and Costa wrapped things up in the final 20 minutes.

Swansea have only won one of 11 previous Premier League games against Chelsea, whilst the Antonio Conte’s Blues had won 14 of their 15 home matches, but the game hinged on a controversial call with the game delicately poised at 1-1 when Cesar Azpilicueta looked like he handled the ball in the area.

Regardless, Conte will not care one bit as his side go marching on, with second-placed Manchester City not playing their match in hand this weekend.

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It was a fast Chelsea start and all blue for the opening 25 minutes. Pedro, who holds the record for this season’s fastest goal scored with his opener against Manchester United after 30 seconds, nearly recorded another quickfire goal in the opening minute, finding his way through the Swansea back-line.

Bar the odd chance for Fernandez from a Sigurdsson corner, which woke Luiz up as the Brazilian forgot his marking duties, most of the play was at the other end.

A Hazard counter saw Costa flank him on the right and Alonso support on the left, but whilst Alonso was in more better space, the Belgian opted to find the striker’s feet, who let him down, dallied too long and eventually took the ball out for a goal-kick.

Hazard then took matters into his own hands, cutting inside but was closed down, before Fabregas tried his luck from the ricochet but it was blocked legitimately, despite hitting the arm of a Swansea defender in the melee.

Fabregas was justifying his inclusion in the starting XI already with his quarterback-style passing, but it got a whole lot better after 19 minutes when he bundled the ball into the back of the net on his 300th Premier League appearance, the first Spaniard to reach this mark, and what a way to celebrate the feat.

Pedro did most of the hard work on the right and could feed either Fabregas or Costa on the edge of the box. Midfielder got in front of the striker, much to Costa’s annoyance, but it was short-lived as two touches later Fabregas cleverly bundled the ball from underneath his feet to pass Fabianski.

The Swans have only kept two clean sheets in their last 31 Premier League away games, and the goal did not help their visible shaking.

Costa was fortunately to get away with a handball before he had a shot, and when Moses kept the ball in play, Fabregas hit the ball into the ground and it looked destined to loop over into the net but Fabianski clawed away superbly.

The full-back pairing Olsson and Naugthon both soon picked up yellow cards for cynical lystopping Hazard and Moses respectively from countering, and from the ensuing Fabregas corner, Cahill and Costa both got in each other’s way as the presentable opportunity faded.

Then nearly came a quite superb solo goal by Pedro. Picking the ball up from within his own half, the Spaniard jinxed his way past seven Swansea men, but just as he was about to pull the trigger a last-ditch block forced a corner instead.

With one injury time added by fourth official Lee Probert, but nearly two played, referee Neil Swarbrick awarded a soft free-kick from which Chelsea paid, but nothing could be taken away from the execution. A floated ball by Sigurdsson saw Llorente, who Conte managed at Juventus, rise tallest and evade Moses, as Courtois was rooted to the spot.

The Icelandic midfielder has now been directly involved in 17 Premier League goals this season, more than any other midfielder, and it meant Chelsea have now conceded a goal in four consecutive league matches for the first time this season, as they had to settle for going into the break honours even.

Would the second half provide more entertainment?

Hazard was early to sting the hands of Fabianski, whilst Fabregas was proving to be a menace all day and whacked the crossbar after taking a shot first time from the edge of the penalty area.

Azpilicueta was one lucky man to get away with a handball appeal, whilst Neil Swarbrick was equally unmoved when Costa went down in the penalty area at the other end, although the crime committed at this end was much less obvious.

They say luck balances itself out, but a penny for Paul Clement’s thoughts as, in this game at least, Chelsea edged their noses in front straight after. Fabregas this time turned provider, with Pedro the goalscorer, curling one in with his left foot, despite it being a save you would have expected Fabianski to make.

Diego Costa has scored seven goals in his four Premier League games against Swansea so it was not too long to wait before he joined the fun and games, finishing off proceedings after an excellent assist by Hazard, as Chelsea go marching on 11 points clear.

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-thumbnailCESC FABREGAS: The man has not had much of a look-in in Conte’s settled Chelsea side, but whenever called upon the Spaniard always delivers. Under the watchful eye of Frank Lampard, Fabregas, on his 300th Premier League appearance, delivered a midfield masterclass Lampard would have been proud of, as he guided his side to three points with a goal and an assist, and an all-round big influence on the game. 8/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte felt overall his side deserved the win: “For sure we dominated the game. We played very well, it was a good performance and we created many chances to score. Now it is important to continue in this way. To look at ourselves and to think to win, to continue with great focus and concentration.”

Clement knew his side was on the end of some bad luck: “There was a big moment with the handball [by Cesar Azpilicueta at 1-1]. That gives you a chance to go 2-1 up with a penalty but three minutes later you’re 2-1 down after a soft goal. Based on chances they deserved to win, but that was a big moment that did not go our way, and who knows what might have happened?”

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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 move 12 points clear at top of table with clinical 3-1 win against Arsenal

Match Summary

Chelsea made amends for September’s heavy 3-0 defeat to Arsenal with a 3-1 victory of their own to cement their position at the top of the table.

Goals by Alonso and Fabregas came either side of a spectacular solo goal by Eden Hazard, before Olivier Giroud scored a consolation in injury time, but it was not enough to stop Chelsea moving 12 points clear — at least temporarily — at the top of the table.

It avenges defeat for Conte, who switched formation after losing this reverse fixture, that at the time led to his side being three points behind today’s visitors, only to find this victory surely kill off any of Arsenal’s title hopes this time round.

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The Gunners have lost their last four games at Stamford Bridge, conceding 12 goals and scoring just one, and with referee Martin Atkinson having refereed four of these ties with each and every one resulting in a Chelsea win, the omens were not good with the Gunners this Saturday lunch-time.

Despite this, Arsenal are the only side Chelsea have not scored against this season, and when early mistakes crept into Chelsea’s play, for example a loose ball by Courtois to Luiz which was intercepted by Ozil, Iwobi then had a good chance to put his side in front.

It was a fast opening 10 minutes, with Arsenal’s top three in their 4-3-3 formation (Ozil, Sanchez and Walcott) harrying Chelsea’s back three in their 3-4-3 formation (Cahill, Luiz and Azpilicueta), and especially keen to make amends for their mid-week loss to Watford.

Regardless of Cahill’s defensive duties though, the Englishman had the chance to break the deadlock from a free-kick, but despite the free header, headed too lowly to trouble Cech.

Where Cahill could not break the deadlock, one of his defensive partners Marcos Alonso could. Stunning work down the right by Moses and Pedro say the ball floated in, and when Costa charged in and beat his marker, his bullet header cannoned back off the crossbar. A moment of panic ensued but Alonso raced in ahead of Bellerin to power home the game’s first goal, with the Spaniard having to depart the game due to his troubles.

Moments later, Costa was in again but culd only find the side-netting, whilst Hazard drew the game’s first yellow card after a cynical foul by Mustafi. Pedro’s free-kick was cleared, but the link-up play between him, Hazard and Costa was sublime and warranted another goal, none more so than when, from an Arsenal free-kick, Hazard countered and Costa, had he looked up, should have played in Pedro who was in acres of space; instead the attack was smothered.

Pedro then took a shot for himself which spun deceptively for Cech, who bundled the ball away for a corner, but his side did begin to cause damage at the other end. A quick free-kick saw Sanchez nearly feed in Walcott, whilst Gabriel and Coquelin both had chances from two corners. The best of the lot nearly came from Ozil, who found the ball after Matic was dispossessed. The German cut back on his left-foot but opted to go for Courtois’ near post, which he had covered, rather than try the more ambitious far post.

But it was still Cech’s former side in command and this continued into the second half.

The Blues have won eight successive home league matches, scoring 24 times and conceding just three, so it was understandable they were not keen to lose the record. Hazard was nearly through, but Koscielny had the run on him, and moments later the Belgian should have again done better from a Kante pass.

Fear not, as the Belgian would eventually take one of these chances and score what turned out to be a quite spectacular goal.

Collecting the ball from within his own half, the Belgian ran menacingly at Arsenal, planting Coquelin firmly on his backside, ringing Kocielny round in circles before walking it in past Cech. It was a great advantage goal by Martin Atkinson as Hazard was fouled on multiple occasions when racing past four Arsenal defenders, but for a man who has not had a shot on target in the past three games, it was a special goal.

Costa wanted to join in on the fun and was nearly in had he perfected his scissor-kick technique from a Moses cross, whilst again from another counter Hazard could not find Pedro.

There was still fire in Arsenal’s belly, under the watchful eye of Arsene Wenger from the directors’ box serving the third of his four-game ban, as shown by an Iwobi cross and successive headed opportunities by Welbeck and Mustafi.

As the game neared its conclusion, Conte decided to shore up his line-up by bringing on Fabregas, Willian and Zouma, but indeed the former put the game beyond all doubt.

Against his former side, the Spaniard collected a terrible clearance by Cech, who himself was playing his former side, and the 29-year-old simply lobbed the ball into an empty net. Respectfully, Fabregas decided not to celebrate.

One of Wenger’s late chances himself scored a goal, Olivier Giroud, powering a header in deep into injury time. Chelsea have kept 13 clean sheets in the league this season, a joint-high in the top five European leagues with Paris St-Germain, but it was not to be 14, even if the points were well secured.

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

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Man of the Match

eden-hazard-thumbnailEDEN HAZARD: Every Chelsea player meant business today, and the work of Kante and Azpilicueta can never be under-estimated, but to win you still need someone to pull the strings and it was the second goal, and more so the manner of it, that killed off all Arsenal life in the game. The way the Belgian glided past four Arsenal men, and then slotted coolly past Cech, will surely be a Goal of the Season contender. 8/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was in fine voice: “It was an important game. I consider Arsenal one of the six teams that can fight for the title until the end of the season. To put them 12 points behind is very important for us. I am very pleased for my players. In every session they show me great attitude and great will to fight and win this league.”

Wenger was complimentary: “Chelsea are in a very strong position. They look solid, difficult to beat and we needed to be better today. They don’t lose against the big teams and that is always the secret to win a championship.”

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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.

Fabregas scores winner as Chelsea edge Sunderland 1-0

Match Summary

Chelsea extend their lead at the top of the table to six points after a hard-fought victory against Sunderland to bring about a record-equalling tenth consecutive Premier League victory.

A solitary Cesc Fabregas goal at the end of the first half was enough for Conte’s men to bring all the spoils back to SW6, but it was not without its dangers as Courtois pulled off a spectacular injury-time save to deny Patrick Van Aanholt an equaliser.

In the end Chelsea did see the match out to record their best run since 2005-2006 season, and crucially kept their tenth clean sheet of the season, a feat achieved in just 16 matches this season when it took them the entire 38-game season last year.

It was nothing more than the visitors deserved, who had 66% possession and some 19 shots, but found Pickford in fine form, but Conte will not care about the manner of the victory as six points is opened up with Arsenal losing last night.

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The visitors have won 19 of the last 23 Premier League meetings against Sunderland, but the hosts won this fixture in May last season, so it was little wonder to see a cagey start as both sides looked to sound out the opponent. David Moyes was vying to win three Premier League games in a row at the Stadium of Light for the first time since February 2012, but set up his side to negate Chelsea’s wing-backs.

That created a slow opening 10 minutes, with little other to note than Marcos Alonso being resorted to a long-range shot which went closer to Row Z than the goal. The ex-Sunderland loanee simply did not have enough time to let it fall before he was closed down.

Where he was not taking the opportunities, he was certainly in the thick of creating them. With Van Aanholt marking Moses closely at the other end, the most potent source of Chelsea’s attacks came from Alonso down the left, and he had space to run and send in a delicious cross on more than one occasion. The end product lacked substance, but the warnings were there.

However the best chance of the game thus far would go Sunderland’s way. Adnan Januzaj had one-on-one time to run at Gary Cahill, and the Belgian had half a yard on the Chelsea captain if he went wide, but opted to cut inside on his left foot and Cahill read it to deflect his shot wide.

At the other end, Costa’s half-volley lacked precision when he was free in the box from Alonso’s cross, but their first substantial chance — in the 40th minute — would yield a goal.

Pedro plucked the ball out of the air, found Fabregas who laid on a one-two to Willian out wide. The Brazilian returned the pass one-touch with perfect delicate weighting for Fabregas to sweep in a daisy-cutter from 20 yards.

It was a sweet goal and perfect vindication for Fabregas, who came into the side ahead of Matic, as he recorded his first Premier League goal of the season.

It could have become two with the last kick of the half as Costa was hauled down by O’Shea in injury time, but Willian’s  free-kick flew over despite getting good contact.

How they could have been made to pay within 60 seconds of the restart as both sides came flying out of the blocks.

Januzaj overlapped a surging Defoe run and was found superbly by the Englishman, but Courtois denied his fellow compatriot with his legs.

The ensuing corner was cleared and Chelsea ran up the other end where Moses really ought to have doubled his side’s lead but shot wayward when presented with a better opportunity than the one Fabregas took earlier in the game.

Willian’s change of pace left ex-Chelsea man Papy Djilobodji for dead but his shot was deflected onto bar, before the next opportunity saw Costa marauding forward and his shot deflected for a corner.

Sunderland were certainly living dangerously, none more so than when Kone barged Costa over in the penalty area. The Spaniard was onside but slow to race onto Pickford’s goal for a glorious opportunity and Kone raced back, arguably illegally but Neil Swarbrick was unmoved.

Costa continued to feel aggrieved when the next opportunity presented to him from a Moses cross was again unfulfilled, with this time Costa moaning he was pushed by Kone before he could make contact. Again a legitimate claim but again Swarbrick was unmoved.

Borini then blazed wide as he tried to relieve some pressure on his side who were constantly under cosh, but it was not before long before the ball was back at the other end, with Willian trying to do a Hazard by cutting in from the left-wing on his right foot, but the Brazilian lacked the curl his team-mate could often show.

As the game wore on with still just the slender one-goal advantage, Chelsea were keen to press on to settle the nerves. Costa worked the ball well out wide to Alonso, whose cross-cum-shot from out wide was well-held by Pickford.

Cahill threw his body on the line to block Borini whilst at the other end Kante came right through the heart of the Sunderland middle and his shot stung Pickford’s hands.

Matic came on to shore things up in the final quarter of an hour, but Chelsea really craved that second goal, coming close through Willian but for the Brazilian to shoot straight at Pickford. Costa then had the ball smothered by a strong hand by Pickford as there was just no budging for that second goal.

Fabregas then was through but pulled wide, as Willian came off for Chalobah to waste yet more time.

A Sunderland onslaught ensued as Azpilicueta pulled a superb defending header off a cross, and from the corner the ball was claimed triumphantly by Courtois. Patrick Van Aanholt really should have equalised at the death with a stunning strike but Courtois somehow reacted superbly after little to do all game, and Chelsea open up the six-point lead.

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-thumbnailCESC FABREGAS: The Spaniard has been very much a super-sub when used in the past couple of games, but with arguably less defending to do against a Sunderland side, Conte felt confident to bench Matic and utilise Fabregas’ creative energies, and boy did it pay off. The defensive solidity of Matic is still required, as shown as the end, but there is no substitute for Fabregas’ vision for a pass — long or short — nor his instinct to pop up with vital goals when his side needs him. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte knew his side put more pressure on themselves than they should have: “When you have the possibility to kill the game, you must kill the game. We had this possibility but we didn’t and at the end Courtois made a good save. It was good, it is important for the future because today we didn’t pay but when you have the possibility to kill the game you must kill the game. I hope in the future we can improve.”

Moyes was not in consolation mood: “Don’t say commiserations, it sounds bad, they deserve more than that. We don’t have the quality of Chelsea but we did a really good job. I don’t want a pat on the back for losing, I want the points.”

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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 need extra-time to overcome Leicester in tense cup tie

Match Summary

Chelsea came from 2-0 down to win 4-2 thanks to two goals from super-sub Cesc Fabregas in extra-time of an entertaining EFL Cup tie.

Last season’s champions raced into a 2-0 lead thanks to Okazaki’s brace, but the champions of 2015 showed their quality eventually, with Cahill, Azpilicueta and the two from Fabregas enough to see Chelsea progress at the expense of Leicester.

The victory will please Conte after the weekend’s loss to Liverpool, and their reward is an away trip to West Ham for the EFL Cup Fourth Round, though the defensive frailties are still a concern despite the deadline signing of David Luiz.

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Things would have been far more routine for Chelsea had Pedro not been in an offside position prior to slotting the ball in the net after just five minutes, or if Alonso’s cross was marginally closer to the onrushing Batshuayi.

But Chelsea never do things the easy way and mistakes would cost the Blues an early deficit once again. Alonso was dispossessed but none of his back-line covered themselves in glory, and despite Cahill’s efforts to clear Okazaki’s goalbound header off the line, referee Robert Madley had already signalled for a goal.

Batshuayi had a headed opportunity himself mid-way through the first half which was not taken, whilst Loftus-Cheek was enjoying the free attacking role normally afforded to Oscar.

But if coming back to win from a 1-0 deficit was hard enough, it would get all the more harder when Okazaki tucked home his second of the game after more Chelsea mistakes.

Gary Cahill restored some order with a crucial goal just before the stroke of half-time, with the Englishman heading home a Chelsea lifeline from a Fabregas corner.

The deficit was all but wiped out within four minutes of the restart. Azpilicueta was given space to pick his spot and Zieler could only watch as the Spaniard’s right-foot shot fizzed past him and into the Leicester goal.

Conte was keen for the match to be won in the remaining 40 minutes so brought on Costa alongside Batshuayi, and both had chances on Zieler’s goal, the latter turning and shooting before the former introduced himself to the game with a narrow miss.

Begovic still had to be alert to the threats posed by Gray and King, and now Jamie Vardy, who Ranieri introduced with a quarter of an hour to go.

Disaster struck for the hosts when, in a match with some petty and cynical fouls, Wasilewski saw his second yellow in the 89th minute after fouls on first Loftus-Cheek and now Costa.

The one-man advantage was not to be capitalised on in the remainder of normal time, but would be seized upon by Fabregas early in extra-time.

The Spaniard, very much a bit-part player under Conte, made his mark as he latched onto the back of a Hazard backpass to rifle home Chelsea’s third.

It was the first time the Blues were leading and the lead became insurmountable just two minutes later with Fabregas’ second, shooting high into Zieler’s net in a crowded penalty area to seal Chelsea’s spot in the Fourth Round draw.

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-thumbnailCESC FABREGAS: The Spaniard has had a difficult time persuading Conte he deserves a starting spot, but on this evidence must be more in the Italian’s plans. The Spaniard was creative and dynamic and brought about the victory with his brace in extra-time, but he surely offers something more than Matic in that holding role with his vision for a pass or ability in front of goal? 8/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte singled out Fabregas for praise: “It’s important when I call someone to play and they show me my choice is not wrong. I am pleased for Cesc because he played a good game, he showed me great commitment in the training sessions. I am satisfied when I see this behaviour.”

Ranieri rued lapses in concentration: “I am happy with our performance until 2-0. We started very well and we were in control of the match. The key was when we conceded a goal on the last corner of the half — we lost two dangerous men, Luiz and Cahill.”

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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 and Leicester share spoils in end-of-season party

Match Summary

Chelsea fans’ misery came to an end as the Blues rounded off their season by giving a warm reception to former manager Claudio Ranieri and his title-winning Leicester City.

Two second-half goals, the opener from Fabregas and the equaliser from Drinkwater, were peripheral matters as the visitors continued their parade — and the Blues their holiday — in what fittingly was a love-in for the conquering former Blue Ranieri, who was visibly in tears with the reception he received from all areas of the stadium after his guard of honour.

With Tottenham ending their season in car-crash style, it means the visitors have emphatically walked away with the Premier League title this season, some 10 points clear of second-placed Arsenal. How fitting it was for the parade to start here at Stamford Bridge, the side who won the title by eight clear points themselves only 12 months ago. They sink to their lowest Premier League finish in 20 years, marking a rapid decline in which this season they could only win 12 of 38, draw 14 and lose a further 12.

It also marks the final game for outgoing interim manager Guus Hiddink, who departs Chelsea with a 37% win rate. The man he replaced, Jose Mourinho, recorded a 38% win percentage in the 24 games he was in charge of this season, so a penny — or many millions — for Abramovich’s thoughts about whether the sacking was worth it.

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Everyone, in truth, was too merry to care about any action.

Pedro, sporting his mask and indeed Chelsea’s new kit, had the game’s early chance, cutting inside from the left and shooting just wide of Schmeichel left-hand post, with the Dane keen to keep the clean sheet to enhance his status for Golden Glove.

Schmeichel was most definitely the busier of the keepers, having to fend off attacks by Traore, who was leading the line with Costa injured. It was the creative sparks behind him that nearly broke the deadlock with half an hour plated: Willian fed Fabregas in a central position as Leicester were opened up, but Schmeichel stood as sturdy as a rock to whack the ball away.

The favour between the Brazilian and Spaniard was returned seven minutes later when an excellent lay-off from Fabregas was met first-time by Willian, who was to be denied by an excellent one-handed Schmeichel save.

Vardy, on 24 goals for the season and himself chasing Golden Boot, had little to feed off but did have a shot deflected as he tried to get his side firing.

Sensing he needed others to help ignite his side into life, Okazaki and Schlupp were introduced by Ranieri at the start of the second-half. Hiddink made adjustments of his own: Loftus-Cheek and Abraham came on — and later Tomori — but you would imagine not to necessarily win the game but to get critics off his back who have said the Dutchman has not played as much youth as he promised.

It was the re-fired Hazard who would make the game’s big contribution though, engineering an attack through delightful dribbling into the box and, whilst Abraham swivelled and had his shot blocked, the ball was met by the oncoming Matic who was felled by Schlupp.

Craig Pawson had no doubt it was a penalty, and Fabregas sent Schmeichel the wrong way. It was the Spaniard’s fifth Premier League goal of the season, all coming under Hiddink.

But the visitors have the best away — and home — records in the league, and coupled with the fact that the Blues have gone 12 Premier League games at Stamford Bridge without keeping a clean sheet, you sensed they would equalise.

And they would in the 82nd minute out of nothing.

Loftus-Cheek was caught ball-watching and Drinkwater was afforded far too much space in the middle of the park to compose himself from 30 yards. Courtois had the time to see it but it was hit with pinpoint accuracy, as Leicester end the season with only three league defeats.

The less said about Chelsea’s 12 the better.

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

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Man of the Match

nemanja-matic.thumbnailNEMANJA MATIC: Been a dreadful season for the Serbian by any standards, summed up by losing his place to Mikel, but the man linked with a summer move to Juventus had to be alert against a side known for their counter-attacking, and it is a testament to his work today that he kept Vardy, Mahrez and Okazaki at bay. When he did get forward, he won the side’s penalty. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Hiddink leaves feeling he has done a good job: “Until December, there were big worries as the club were one point away from the relegation zone. My first task was to get away from that and in two months we were out. As a second target, we wanted to go further and get to the top four. [Today] it was a typical end-of-the-season game where there was nothing at stake. We were sloppy after the penalty and they got the equaliser.”

Ranieri was happy to end the season back at his former club: “The emotion is fantastic. It was a good atmosphere and I want to say thank you to our fans and the Chelsea fans. It was amazing. Both teams had great chances and well done to the players.”

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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.