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

Match Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Man of the Match

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

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Manager Reaction

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

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

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Fan View

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

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

Chelsea 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.

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 suffer second loss in four games as 2-0 defeat at Manchester United cuts lead to 4 points

Match Summary

Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table is slashed to just four points after Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United side inflicted a bruising 2-0 defeat.

Mourinho, who has lost both games against Chelsea since taking charge at United, made it third time lucky, with Rashford opening the scoring after seven minutes and Herrera making sure early in the second half.

The Blues, who were unbeaten in 12 matches against Manchester United in all competitions, could have no complaints, with all players conspicuous by their absence for their second wobble in four.

With no shot on target for the first time in a decade, and with Tottenham playing yesterday to a resounding 4-0 win, it blows the title race wide opened, with the two sides coming together at Wembley for the FA Cup semi-final next weekend.

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It was the start Chelsea did not want, before a ball was even kicked. A full-strength squad for Conte yesterday in his pre-match press conference saw two key first-team players injured before the first whistle was even blew, with Courtois declared unfit in the morning and Alonso picking up an injury with ten minutes before kick-off.

Begovic and Zouma was quickly introduced in a make-shift line-up for the visitors, but the Blues were all at sea in the first half.

Despite Manchester United’s top scorer being on the bench, Rashford’s pace was tearing the Blues apart all half. The Englishman was through within just four minutes after another Luiz mistake, whilst Chelsea did not heed their warning three minutes later and were punished.

Herrera broke forward after handling the ball which went unspotted by Bobby Madley, and an inch-perfect ball played forward to Rashford meant all the 19-year-old had to do was keep his composure in front of Begovic, which he duly did. Chelsea have now conceded in tenconsecutive Premier League games, the worst run without a clean sheet since 1996.

It nearly became worse moments later: Pogba’s pass this time evaded Cahill who was causing the errors, but Rashford was wide this time, although he did have another chance when Young broke free on the left and drove a low ball across the Chelsea penalty area. The ball evaded everyone, but Rashford would have had a tap-in given Luiz was on the wrong side of his man.

Chance after chance came for the hosts, and particularly for Rashford, who this time broke free on the left and, but for a crucial intervention by Begovic’s right hand, Lingard would have had another tap-in.

By this time Conte had seen enugh and the back-line was switching once more: Moses was to become the left wing-back and Azpilicueta the right.

That did not arrest the Red Devils’ chances down the centre, with Ashley Young afforded acres of space centre to pick his spot from 18 yards. Fortunately, that spot was Row Z, but it was clear Chelsea was struggling.

A quiet game by Costa with his feet meant he felt he had to make up for it with his mouth, and a series of petulant fouls with Pogba and Rojo brought the Spaniard a yellow card. Bobby Madley, at 31 years of age, is a relative newcomer with the big stage, and has only shown one red card in his last 27 Premier League matches, but Costa had to watch his step for the best part of an hour.

Any attempts by the Spaniard to let his feet do the talking was wayward, with a long-range effort going wide, but with the half-time whistle about to be blown, Antonio Conte will have lots more thinking to do regarding Chelsea’s rearguard, who let Young blaze another shot high and wide but from a glorious central position 15 yards from goal.

Will whatever the Italian had to say at half-time reignite Chelsea’s title hopes, which at this point stands at just a four-point lead?

No: it got worse and worse for the league leaders.

A poor mistake by N’Golo Kante to give the ball away in his penalty area was picked up by Young, who found Herrera. All the Spaniard need to do was drill it goalward, and given the sea of Chelsea men in front of him, Begovic was unsighted to see the ball sail past him via a big deflection off Zouma’s legs.

Lingard and Rashford were running rings around the Chelsea defence and the former nearly had his side’s third, and any Chelsea effort at the other end were ambitious tries from range by Pedro.

Moses was sacrificed for Fabregas as Conte reverted to a back four as Azpilicueta switched back to the left, and the midfielder’s free-kick found Costa perfectly but his striking companion let his assist machine down.

Azpilicueta sent a delicious cross-field ball to Pedro who could not make sufficient contact on the stretch, whilst Mourinho reacted to Conte’s midfield change by shoring up his side with Carrick’s introduction.

A Matic mistake saw Rashford race through but his shot hit the side-netting, whilst Conte upped the ante again by bringing Willian on for Matic.

A melee in the penalty area from a Chelsea corner nearly saw Costa stab home, but any substantial chance came Rashford’s way, weaving in and out of Luiz and nearly sneaking one past Begovic’s near post.

United have only lost once at home in 37 matches in all competitions and the run would continue. Chelsea go again next weekend, against Tottenham of all clubs, in the FA Cup semi-final.

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

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Man of the Match

NO-ONE: Did anyone do anything? The defence was leaky, the midfield were out-muscled and the attacking trio of Pedro, Hazard and Costa were kept largely anonymous. Add in the fact Courtois and Alonso suffered pre-match injuries, for which their absences may be longer than one game and whom the 5-2-3 relied heavily on, and all-in-all it was a very poor outing in Manchester for Chelsea. 3/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte admitted his nervousness about the title race situation: “I have concern because we have to work together and find quickly the right ambition to win this title. Tottenham is in good form and playing with enthusiasm, we must find the same. [The fault for today’s loss] is mine. In this case I was not able to do the right motivation. [Manchester United] deserved to win because they showed more desire than us.”

Mourinho was pleased tactically: “Chelsea are the best counter attacking team in the country and we controlled them very well. I do not feel extra joy at beating Chelsea — we beat the leader. It doesn’t matter if the leader is Chelsea or another — we beat them convincingly.”

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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.