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.

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

Match Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would the second half provide more entertainment?

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

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

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

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

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

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Man of the Match

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

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Manager Reaction

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

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

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Fan View

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

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

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

Match Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Man of the Match

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

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Manager Reaction

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

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

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Fan View

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

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

Fabregas scores winner as Chelsea edge Sunderland 1-0

Match Summary

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Man of the Match

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

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Manager Reaction

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

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

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Fan View

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

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

Chelsea thump Aston Villa for four in dead rubber

Match Summary

Chelsea go 15 games unbeaten in the Premier League with a meaningless but comprehensive win away at Aston Villa.

Both sides have little to play for, with the hosts destined for the Championship and the visitors mid-table mediocrity, but the quality of the current champions shone through with goals from Loftus-Cheek, Pato and Pedro’s brace.

It will please manager Hiddink, who rotated his side to feature the likes of Miazga, Loftus-Cheek and eventually Clarke-Salter, and the youngsters did not disappoint, though a sense of perspective must be maintained against a half-hearted Villa side.

It leaves the Blues still some 10 points off the Top Four with seven games remaining, with even the six points needed for a Europa League spot looking unlikely.

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Chelsea’s future will not contain Hiddink much longer so it was pleasing to see the 69-year-old field some Chelsea youngsters who might indeed be the future of the club.

Miazga was given his debut, by default given injuries to Zouma, Cahill and Terry, to become Chelsea’s first American player, whilst at the other end Willian was rested to give Loftus-Cheek and Pedro a chance to shine.

The latter was certainly keen to stamp his experienced authority over his colleagues, curling one over from a corner before having the ball in the net only for it to be disallowed for offside.

Gestede was the more effective attacker on the field as opposed to Remy, whose day ended abruptly mid-way through the first half. Pato would get his belated debut having signed for the club in January.

It was Loftus-Cheek who got the game’s first goal, getting on the end of Azpilicueta’s cross to shoot past Guzan thanks to a big deflection off Lescott. It was his first Premier League goal in 11 appearances.

Villa tried to get back in the game through Ayew but a second Chelsea goal just before half-time killed off all hope for the game and indeed their survival chances. Pato was bundled over and given the spot-kick duties, tucking away to Guzan’s right.

Oscar came on at half-time and assisted Pedro’s first goal — and Chelsea’s third — just 48 seconds into the second half.

The Brazilian exchanged a neat one-two with fellow Brazilian Pato and teed up Spaniard Pedro to side-foot home. It looked simple and oozed class, but Villa’s defence did not cover themselves in glory.

One became two for Pedro by the hour mark, as Pato’s shot was weakly saved by Guzan right into the path of Pedro to tap home. It was his sixth Premier League goal, with only Diego Costa having scored more this campaign.

Courtois was looking shaky all afternoon from crosses, flapping away at any Villa long ball but thankfully for the Belgian, and indeed new entrant Jake Clarke-Salter, Villa’s chances were few and far between.

Villa’s misery was compounded when Hutton was given his marching orders as the fans voiced their discontent.

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

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Man of the Match

pedro.thumbnailPEDRO: You have to bear in mind the level (or lack of) of the opposition who looked resigned all afternoon, but the job still has to be done and this was Pedro’s attitude. The Spaniard scored two confidence-boosting goals and it is admirable to see still some effort from a Chelsea side with nothing to play for as Pedro certainly still has a lot to prove after an average season. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Hiddink understood there was nothing to lose by playing youngsters: “It’s good to see Loftus-Cheek, Clarke-Salter and Miazga coming in. We cannot win any [trophy] which makes it easier. It’s good to see how they deal with the pressure. I always like to bring in youngsters and now we have the rest of the season to do it more frequently.”

Black said some people-pleasing words: “If you’re bottom of the league and have won three games all season, you’re not going to be flying high. We have to be professional until the end, and do our utmost for the club and supporters.”

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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.

Aston Villa 1-2 Chelsea: Match Reaction

Match Summary

Chelsea secured a vital win against Aston Villa as the Blues race into a seven-point lead at the top of the table.

Jose Mourinho, who has never won at Villa Park in five previous attempts, had Hazard and Ivanovic to thank as it was sixth time lucky, with the double bonus that Manchester City dropped two points too.

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It means Chelsea are firmly in the driving seat now, with closest rivals Manchester City suffering a mid-season crisis: out of both cups, with Barcelona to come in the Champions League, and a sizeable seven point gap away from the top of the table.

The hosts for today’s game was also in a spot of bother, with no Premier League goal scored all year. Chelsea were to give them a belated Christmas present, however.

But it was a fast start that put Chelsea on their way. Drogba’s punt forward to Oscar was hopeful but the Brazilian controlled and laid the ball off to his compatriot, Willian. He then found Hazard who, on the run, swept the ball home.

The grumbles were audible from the home fans but, to their side’s credit, they did not crumble.

Chelsea were patient — perhaps too patient — and Ramires had chances, as too Drogba.

The half-time team-talk by Paul Lambert clearly reinvigorated a side with how confidence as Okore equalised. It was only their 12th goal of the season but the relief across the home crowd was palpable.

With so much at stake for both sides, we were in for an end-to-end conclusion. Ivanovic struck sweetly for Chelsea and, as time passed, it proved to be the winner.

But this was not without some new and old faces, with Cuadrado making his debut, and Joe Cole and Scott Sinclair lining up for Aston Villa against their former side. The Chelsea defence, with Gary Cahill back, held firm and Chelsea march on.

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

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Man of the Match

branislav-ivanovic.thumbnailBRANISLAV IVANOVIC: It’s easy to just go for the player who scores the winner, and whilst that is the case here for Ivanovic, the Serbian most definitely deserves it today. A resolute defensive showing as Aston Villa were determined to be a threat towards the end, but it was a precision goal any striker would be proud of, with such technique with his left foot to fire home into the top corner. 8/10

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Manager Reaction

Mourinho was elated: “It is one more hurdle in the title race, but there are many more. It is possibly the only league in Europe where teams from the bottom can play against the top ones and not just make things difficult but win points. I like [that Man City lost] but that was not my concern today.”

Paul Lambert felt he could reflect positively from the performance: “We deserved something from the game, we played really well. We have top players. Our season will not be defined with what happened against Arsenal and Chelsea, it is about from now on in.”

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had four 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, 2011-2015. 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.

Stoke City 0-2 Chelsea: Match Reaction

Match Summary

Chelsea are the Christmas number 1 after an efficient win against a very rough Stoke opponent.

The Blues, who have seen their eight-point gap at the top of the table diminish in recent weeks, had Terry and Fabregas to thank as it means Chelsea hold their position as table-toppers for Christmas.

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It was a fast start to the game. The opening corner by Fabregas brought about the game’s first goal, with John Terry leaping highest to break the deadlock, in his 650th Chelsea appearance.

This settled the Chelsea nerves, particularly with Manchester City creeping up behind them, and the game’s next talking point was in the 20th minute, when Phil Bardsley scythed down Eden Hazard near the corner flag. It was most definitely excessive force but Swarbrick only deemed it worthy of a yellow card.

The brawn over beauty continued into the second half. After soaking up much Stoke pressure, relief was palpable from the 2,000-strong away Chelsea support in the 78th minute. Hazard’s pass to Fabregas was a bit of the heavy side but the ex-Arsenal ace controlled the ball and his mis-kick rolled its way into the net.

It looked like Schurrle, who had been summoned to come on a few seconds before the goal, would then be asked by Mourinho to sit back down thanks to Fabregas’ cushion, but the manager was in the Christmas spirit, allowing the German some game-time as Chelsea saw out the match and can enjoy their Christmas as the star at the top of the tree.

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

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Man of the Match

cesc-fabregas.thumbnailCESC FABREGAS: Just brilliant as always. Started the scoring with an assist and rounded it off with the killer goal. Mourinho must love him: unlocks defences with his corner to Terry and also eases the pressure with his calm, authoritative stamp on the game, and comes up with the key goal. He’s had a brilliant half-season thus far and tonight showed he’s equally capable of playing a more attacking role. One must also credit Matic for intercepting every pass and coping with Stoke’s physicality, however. 8/10

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Manager Reaction

Mourinho was elated: “It is a victory that means a bit more than the three points. To win here, you need to put more than just your quality. We must play a good game; we did it because we adapted well to their style of play.”

Hughes rues a poor start: “We were frustrated to concede so early on. That’s what you want to avoid. But to be honest I think we gave it a real go.”

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Post written by Martin Li. Martin has had three 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, 2011-2014. 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.