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.

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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.

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

Match Summary

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

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

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

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

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

And they certainly were.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Man of the Match

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

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Manager Reaction

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

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

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Fan View

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

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

Chelsea 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.

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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.

Chelsea restore seven-point lead with comfortable 3-1 win at Bournemouth

Match Summary

Chelsea saw off Bournemouth 3-1 in an entertaining Saturday tea-time tie as the Blues restore their seven-point lead at the top of the table.

Tottenham’s lunch-time win temporarily cut the visitors’ lead down to four points, but the Blues made no mistake in the sunny south coast, with Smith’s own goal and a superb goal by Eden Hazard giving Chelsea a comfortable 2-0 cushion with just 20 minutes played.

King pulled one back for the hosts, and despite it taking nearly half an hour before Chelsea really put the game to bed with an excellent Marcos Alonso free-kick, the Blues never looked in danger, especially going into the game having only lost once in their last 12 Premier League away matches.

It means Chelsea need 15 more points to guarantee themselves the title, a pursuit which continues next Sunday against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

With Tottenham throwing down the gauntlet by winning 4-0 in their early kick-off, Chelsea needed the best possible start to reassure their fans, but it was quite the opposite when Luiz nearly scored an own goal with a minute played.

Frazer’s cross looked innocuous enough but the Brazilian took a wild swipe at the ball, judging the flight of it horribly and requiring an extreme reflex reaction from Courtois. Luiz signalled to the sun in an attempt to clear any blame on him, but it was a let-off.

Moses was also lucky to escape with just a yellow card — and not a goal conceded — when he deliberately handled the ball to stop Bournemouth running through, but soon enough the visitors got going in the most fortuitous of circumstances.

Moses’ cross found Costa in the penalty area, and his swivel brought about a great chance with his left foot. The Spaniard however absolutely shanked his shot, which would have gone a good five yards wide had Smith not been there to deflect it in off the post. They all count, but it was hard on Bournemouth.

If that was lucky, the second goal three minutes later was anything but.

Pedro fed Kante who swung a delicious 50-yard ball to Hazard, who beat the offside trap to go one-on-one with Boruc. Shaping to curl it but actually going round the goalkeeper, Hazard rounded Boruc to his left and slid the ball home. It was an excellent goal, his 14th of the season and equal to his best total in a Premier League season set in both the 2013/14 and 2014/15 season. The Hazard of last season, who went 31 games without scoring, defies belief and is most definitely gone.

Complacency would be Chelsea’s biggest threat sitting so comfortably on the top of the table and Pugh nearly put that on show when he was in but for Azpilicueta’s excellent blow. Afobe then did brilliantly to control the ball and was unlucky to smash it against the post, ricochet off the back of Courtois, but still the ball did not fall into the net.

A bit of respite for Chelsea saw Pedro fire high and wide and Costa had a chance but was too slow when stride-for-stride with Francis. Then, Hazard found Pedro from a low corner, something that had clearly been worked on on the training ground, but Boruc saved Pedro’s low drive well.

The returning Moses was a menacing attacking threat when given the opportunity and, when in space, found Hazard and Costa, but the latter wasted it. Costa has drawn blanks in the last 3 Premier League games, never going four league games without a goal, but it was not one of his days today.

The hosts are unbeaten in the last five league games and so it was no surprise to see them show some fight, especially with King up top leading the way. The Norwegian, who has scored nine goals in his last 10 appearances, would score his another, albeit with a wicked deflection off Luiz that took it into the top corner past Courtois. It is the ninth game in a row in which the Belgian has conceded.

Could the attacking prowess of Hazard, Pedro and Costa make up for it?

Alonso slid a ball that was aimed for the oncoming Costa but was too close to Boruc, whilst the leaky Chelsea defence had to withstand pressure from a 25-yard Frazer strike and moments later King and Frazer worked the ball around the area but thankfully no-one was there to finish off and Kante hacked clear.

Hazard whipped a cross straight across goal as Costa could not get his head on it, whilst Alonso then set up another opportunity for Costa but the Spaniard failed to get a touch.

Other players needed to take matters into their own hands, and that is exactly what Alonso did from the next set-piece, which ironically Costa won.

Tripped on the edge of the penalty area, Andre Marriner blew for a foul, and all Marcos Alonso needed was a short run-up before the ball sailed over the wall and into Boruc’s goal with the Pole unmoved.

The Blues have won 18 of their 21 league matches this season against the teams currently outside the top six in the table, and with this fire-power, Conte saw out the final 20 minutes by introducing Willian, Fabregas and Zouma.

The win could have been made more convincing had Alonso not wasted a Hazard pass, and Moses did superbly to beat three men before hammering the ball goalward only to see Boruc get a superb hand to it, but Chelsea replied in as emphatic a fashion as Tottenham had set out.

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: On his day, which has happened a lot this season, the Belgian is magic. It is staggering to believe this same player 12 months ago went 31 games without scoring a goal, because his all-round play this season has been superb. This was no more typified on a sunny Saturday tea-time match at Bournemouth, rounding off an excellent performance with a superb goal. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte urged his players to keep working: “We started the game very well with great attention and focus. Then we conceded the goal and we lost a bit of confidence. In the second half we managed the game and scored another goal, then the free-kick from Marcos Alonso. Now it is important to rest and restart and prepare for the game against Manchester United.”

Howe could not fault his men: “I have to compliment Chelsea, they’re an outstanding team and their system works very well for them. But I compliment my boys as well because they played very well. In the end Chelsea were too strong.”

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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 maintain seven-point lead at top of table with crucial 2-1 against Manchester City

Match Summary

Chelsea do the double over Manchester City as an Eden Hazard brace maintains Chelsea’s seven-point lead at the top of the table.

A goal inside the first 10 minutes by Hazard set Chelsea on their way, but Aguero was gifted an equaliser by Courtois’ howler. Hazard then scored his second off the rebound from his saved penalty to secure Chelsea precious points on a night where Tottenham won too.

The visitors won 3-0 at Stamford Bridge last season, but this loss means Manchester City, who were unbeaten in eight league matches, have now suffered six league defeats in a single season, the first time this has happened to any of Pep Guardiola’s clubs in his managerial career.

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With Antonio Conte keen to not lose consecutive home league games as a head coach since November 2009, the Italian opted for a change of system and personnel: Zouma came in for Matic and dropped into the back three, with Azpilicueta moving to wing-back — Moses is still out injured — and Fabregas pushed further forward.

It was an experiment which started well and brought Chelsea a first goal inside 10 minutes. Hazard started a move he would later finish, swinging the ball wide to Azpilicueta who cut the ball back inside to Hazard, free inside the penalty box and shooting past Caballero, who managed to get a hand on the ball.

Fernandinho then tried his hand from range, whilst Aguero had an opportunity saved by Courtois, having driven 20 yards and sent the Chelsea back-line completely backing off and inviting Aguero in.

Fabregas had a chance to make more secure Chelsea’s lead from a Hazard counter but his central left-footed shot clipped Clichy and looped over Caballero and his bar.

How that would have helped the home fans as moments later the lead was completely wiped out. A howler of a clearance by Courtois brought about a two-on-one opportunity for Manchester City, with Silva finding space for a shot, before Aguero collected the ricochet and tapping home into an empty net. It was a gift of a goal and Aguero, who has four goals in his last three league appearances against Chelsea, was not about to pass it up.

Hazard had a chance straight away to restore his side’s lead, one-on-one with John Stones but Costa was stupid to clash with Delph off the ball, giving Mike Dean no choice but to stop play with Hazard in a state of confusion.

The end-to-end game saw Clichy then slide a ball across the Chelsea back-line as the Blues were losing their shape after City’s equaliser, with the Citizens finding space behind Kante.

But the break the hosts needed soon came from the penalty spot.

Fabregas fed Pedro with a delicate ball and, when Pedro cut back inside, he was felled by Fernandinho right in front of Mike Dean’s eyes for a stone-wall penalty. Whilst Hazard missed, he did gather the rebound to record his 13th goal of the season.

The Blues conceded two quick goals straight after taking the lead at Crystal Palace at the weekend so should have been extra careful after regaining the lead here, but Aguero was allowed to shoot — albeit wide — in further evidence that the visitors were not out of it.

In recognition of that, Conte abandoned his experiment in time for the second-half, with Pedro moving to right wing-back and Matic on for Zouma in the reshuffle, but whilst this system has been used before, it seemed to add even more confusion, at least in the initial stages, as Matic was caught ball-watching when the man he was marking from a free-kick, Vincent Kompany, managed to steer a header onto the crossbar. It was a let-off.

There have been four red cards in the last five league meetings between these sides, with three being shown to City players, but the first booking would only come in the 51st minute when Mike Dean carded Clichy for a careless foul.

The opportunities kept coming and Fernandinho blazed the ball over when five yards out and deemed onside despite replays suggesting he was off, whilst chance after chance continued coming the visitors’ way, with De Bruyne working a smart low free-kick to Sane but to no eventual avail.

Pedro tried to curl a shot in on the 67th minute but really Chelsea had been shutting up shot from around the 55th. Cahill read the situation well to stop Silva feeding in Aguero, but Chelsea had the best opportunity to put the game to bed on a counter-attack soon after. Pedro, Fabregas and Hazard were all each selflessly passing up the opportunity to score and giving the ball to one another, with Hazard eventually blazing over when City had enough men back. It was a chance missed and Conte knew it.

A late City flurry saw Aguero hit the side-netting from a wide angle — a huge chance but not as big as John Stones from two yards out, who failed to get the ball out of his feet in time and fired it high in the ensuing panic.

It was a late let-off for Chelsea, but the Blues preserve their lead — a Guardiola-managed side has never previously lost both league games against the same opponent in a single season — and crucially their seven-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

EDEN HAZARD: The magician has sometimes been criticised for not turning up in big matches, but today the Belgian delivered. An early goal settled the nerves and, whilst his penalty was poor, the cool head from the rebound settled the points in the Blues’ favour. The 26-year-old was running rings around the City back-line all evening, and should have secured his hat-trick but for blazing his shot over, before he was substituted to a standing ovation. 8/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was pleased the Crystal Palace loss was only a blip: “At this time of the season it is easy to be nervous. There is a lot of pressure. Our reaction [to the weekend loss] was very good. We showed what it is to be a good team. I want to thank to the crowd because they pushed us. When you see your opponents continue to win, you must win to win the title. That is all we have to do.”

Guardiola was honest but spoke of longevity: “In the boxes we are not good enough. We created enough to score goals. It is our problem [but] it is an honour to have the amazing players I have. It is encouraging for the future.” 

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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.

Hazard and Costa on point as Conte’s Chelsea beat West Ham 2-1

Match Summary

Chelsea go 10 games unbeaten, and extend their lead at the top of the table to 10 points, after a comfortable east-meets-west London derby against West Ham in the London Stadium.

Goals in either half by Eden Hazard and Diego Costa was enough to avenge defeat to the hosts in the EFL Cup earlier in the season, but Lanzini’s injury-time goal denies Chelsea their clean sheet, meaning the visitors have only kept two clean sheets in their last nine league games, having recorded 10 shut-outs in the previous 12 top-flight matches.

Regardless of defensive frailties, the attacking prowess of Hazard and Costa was strong enough to give Chelsea all three points, and it could have been more convincing but for some good saves from Randolph.

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West Ham have won their last two home games against Chelsea, both by a 2-1 scoreline, so it was no surprise to see Conte set his side up to score early. However, the Italian himself may have been as caught out as West Ham’s defence was, with Luiz’s long through-ball right from kick-off nearly finding Pedro to score a goal in still a single-digit number of seconds.

The early drama subsided with lengthy spells of possession, with neither keeper significantly tested, but the goal did come eventually, from a fast Chelsea counter-attack.

When West Ham’s attack broke down by none other than N’Golo Kante, Hazard and Pedro exchanged a series of one-twos as they raced half the length of the field. A final crisp assist by Pedro saw Hazard one-on-one, and after rounding Randolph, the Belgian tucked the ball into the back of the net.

The Blues have scored the opening goal of the game 21 times this season in the Premier League, four more times than any other side, but had to be wary of a West Ham recovery, with Noble and Lanzini occupying dangerous positions in Chelsea’s penalty area.

But Chelsea never looked like losing control.

Pin-ball in the West Ham box saw Hazard, Costa, Moses and Pedro all fire at Randolph but the Irish goalkeeper was standing firm and saved well before clearing the melee.

A similar stand-off ensued at the other end, with Feghouli’s shot eventually being blocked to safety by Victor Moses.

Andy Carroll was an important recall for Bilic after injury, but Chelsea never looked like losing that control in the second half.

Quite the contrary: they were to assert more dominance on the match through the simplest of second goals. A corner floated in evaded all players but not Costa’s thigh, as the Spaniard bundled the ball into the back of the net from three yards out.

In the run-up to the match, the 28-year-old had scored in 54% of his Premier League appearances, a higher proportion than any other player to feature in at least 20 matches. Costa also only needed two goals to reach the 50 Premier League goals mark, a club he is only one shy of now.

That feat was nearly realised moments later, when a smart swivel inside the penalty area brought about a dangerous chance, and whilst he got his shot away with his left foot, Randolph was equal to it and the wait for Costa would have to go on.

Alonso had an opportunity prior to that, but Conte had seen enough and was keen to preserve; Matic and Zouma soon came on for the final quarter of an hour.

That did not stop Lanzini striking firmly — and scoring — against Courtois in the dying minutes though, with Chelsea denied their first clean sheet in five league outings, but the Blues’ attentions now turn to the FA Cup, and Manchester United no less, after another solid Premier League outing.

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: We all know on his day this man is lethal, and tonight was one of those. Broke the deadlock with an excellent goal with Pedro, but his constant running, drifting in, weaving out, confused the West Ham defence as they struggled to main the Belgian in real form. The man shows great composure and it is surely this, along with his quality, that will help Chelsea to the Premier League title. 8/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was pleased with the manner of the win: “I think we played a good game. We controlled the game. It is a pity for the goal we conceded at the end. To give away a clean sheet at the end is not good. We must improve in this situation. But I’m pleased. We showed great concentration and commitment and will to win.”

Bilic was resigned: “They deserved to beat us. It is very simple. If you want to beat Chelsea then you have to hope for their mistakes and use them. They look serious, for me they are not going to lose [the title]. I can’t see them being casual.”

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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.