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.

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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.

Everton 3-1 Chelsea

Match Summary

Chelsea are 11 points behind leaders Manchester City after just five matches as they were pulled apart by Steven Naismith and Everton this Saturday lunch-time.

The Blues, who only lost three matches last campaign, have already lost three in their opening five, conceding a league-topping 12 goals in the process.

It is a far cry from the defensive rigidity shown last season and raises serious questions about Mourinho’s future, despite winning two trophies just a few months ago. How quickly things change.

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After 13 days of no Premier League action, Chelsea should have been racing out of the blocks, eager to put to bed the distrarous form before this international break.

Afforded that opportunity were the likes of Begovic, Zouma and Mikel, who displaced Courtois, Cahill and Willian, with John Terry returning after suspension.

The Chelsea back-line has conceded nine goals in four games this far, with three of those defeats, so it was no surprise to see Martinez’s men target them, and in particular Ivanovic, from the off.

And boy did it pay off, with Besic’s injury the blessing in disguise. This introduced Naismith into the action in the ninth minute, and it took him just eight minutes to break the deadlock, and only five further minutes to secure a second.

The first was as simple as it got. Naismith drove the ball forward and passed out to Galloway. One touch past the retreating Ivanovic and a second touch to swing the ball into the area and Naismith headed home, having been allowed ample space between Zouma and Terry. It was textbook stuff, and damningly the Champions League-winning Ivanovic and Terry were pulled apart by players who nearly joined Noriwich and who was signed from MK Dons. Something was going gravely wrong.

The second was, again, as simple as it got. Given yet more room, this time by the midfield duo of Matic and Mikel, Naismith took the ball and leathered it left-footed past Begovic. What have Chelsea done to upset the footballing gods this way?

Was the match over after 22 minutes? Matic would have something to say about that, with Everton suffering from a momentary lapse of concentration and themselves gifting Matic room to strike home from 30 yards.

Where would the Chelsea goals come from, if there were to be a resurgence in the second half? The answer is it would not.

Hazard, Fabregas and Costa were anonymous and Pedro was stifled by a tight Everton back-line.

Naismith would tear Chelsea apart one more time, though, slotting low past Begovic with Terry pulled out of position. It was his, and Everton’s day. Something is very, very wrong at Chelsea HQ.

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

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Man of the Match

nemanja-matic.thumbnailNEMANJA MATIC: He scored a goal. And was part of a team that conceded three. For him to be my Chelsea man of the match says it all. 4/10

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Manager Reaction

Mourinho was defiant after his own fans started to turn against him: “I don’t blame my players, I don’t blame myself. I don’t accept the result. I’m not feeling under pressure. I’m feeling the results are the worst ever in my career. I’m the man for the job. I’m the man who did so many good things for Chelsea. I’m the man.”

Martinez was delighted: “I react to this victory with incredible satisfaction. A performance like this gives you a feeling of pride, it was an incredible team performance. We knew from last season in Europe that if we wanted to be a winning team you need to retain a strong squad.”

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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.

Maribor 1-1 Chelsea: Match Reaction

Match Summary

Chelsea had to settle for a point against Slovenian outfits Maribor after a sloppy evening’s work.

The Blues, who still sit at the top of the table, would have been confident of an easy ride having walked in six goals in the reverse encounter, but the trek out to eastern Europe proved much less fruitful and, bar for Matic’s equaliser, could have been even worse for Mourinho’s men. It could also have been much better, however, had Hazard scored his last-minute penalty.

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Instead. they go home with pride hit. In a week where Mourinho attacked the Chelsea fans, many of whom took it personally, it was Mourinho now becoming irate at his complacent team.

Zouma and Drogba both had chances in the first half but the the second half was where the goals lay. Costa and Oscar were the entrants with Schurrle and Willian departing but it was Maribor who took the surprise lead. Ibraimi’s looped effort managed to beat Cech and send the home faithful into delirium.

So came the combination of attack and desperation. Matic pulled one back but the hard work was done by Terry from a corner. Hazard drew a penalty from the Maribor defence but, despite having a 100% success rate in the Premier League, could not find similar accuracy tonight.

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

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Man of the Match

nemanja-matic.thumbnailNEMANJA MATIC: No-one stood out tonight and though the likes of Hazard and Oscar were good, both had the reasons for me to not give them my Man of the Match: Hazard missed a crucial penalty to win the game and Oscar did not play half of it. It leaves me with the goal-scorer and the man to spare the blushes, Nemanja Matic.  7/10

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Manager Reaction

Mourinho was unhappy with his team: “Many times surprises happen when people are not fully focused, when they believe the game can’t be a difficult one. Only when Maribor scored did the players realise the game was in danger. After that, a fantastic reaction. We deserved to win, clearly.”

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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.

Sporting Lisbon 0-1 Chelsea: Match Reaction

Match Summary

Nemanja Matic gave Chelsea their first win in the Champions League group stage — but it could have been much more comfortable.

The Blues, knocked by the 1-1 draw in their opening fixture against Schalke, had numerous opportunities but could only count on Matic to head home a vital goal and give the Blues a precious three points to lead the group.

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The floodgates may have been opened has Costa managed to score the first inside two minutes. Fabregas was the provider, but Rui Patricio was the preventer.

The same scenario was occurring time and time again. Schurrle tried his hand but Patricio was there again to stop things. Oscar huffed and puffed too but there was no break-through from Chelsea’s attackers.

It was down to Matic. The ex-Benfica man received constant boos at the home of an ex-rival but had the last laugh by climbing highest in meeting Fabregas’ cross.

It would silence the crowd, and despite the best efforts of Nani, would also provide Chelsea with the precious three points.

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

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Man of the Match

nemanja-matic.thumbnail NEMANJA MATIC: Quietly gets on with his work, like Mikel, but what is so different is Matic is much more ruthless when with the ball. The killer pass, the anticipation, and on tonight’s showing, most definitely the goal-threat, are all attributes of the Serbian. It was another typically robust display. 8/10

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Manager Reaction

Mourinho was just pleased to secure the points: “It’s not a knock-out where goals are fundamental; it’s points, and these are three points. I think the game was hard but correct. The ref controlled it so everything was OK.”

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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.

Everton 3-6 Chelsea: Match Reaction

Match Summary

Chelsea and Everton served out a nine-goal thriller as this classic match was ironically helped by some shocking officiating.

The likes of Diego Costa, Ramires, Matic and Ivanovic all were on the score-sheet for the Blues, whilst ex-Blue Samuel Eto’o scored on his debut.

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The Londoners started with immense power: Costa slided the ball home after 35 seconds after great work by Fabregas.

But then the dodgy officiating kicked in. Ivanovic was a leg’s width offside whrn he doubled Chelsea’s lead within minutes. Referee Moss should then have sent off Howard for handling outside the box, and failed to make amends even when he later headbutted Azpilicueta.

Thankfully, the sheer number of goals should take the headlines, for it was that sort of yo-yo game.

Mirallas’ delightful header just before half-time made it game on, but a Coleman own goal early in the second looked to settle things.

Everton had other ideas as Chelsea became complacent. Naismith toe poked home, but Chelsea restored their two goal lead through Matic.

That was halved — again — through a sublime Eto’o header, but no-one could control anything as Ramires slid one home just a minute later.

Ten minutes of protective Chelsea play then allowed for Costa to grab his brace in injury time.

It makes it three wins from three, but it could have been much easier.

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.thumbnail DIEGO COSTA: Such a high-scoring game and Matic and Cahill can be proud of their defensive efforts despite the score-line painting a very different picture, but Costa has to be praised for starting and ending the rout. Effortless commitment and tireless approach, but must cut out the petulance because he is waiting for a red card if he keeps falling for opponents’ smart provocation. 8/10

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Manager Reaction

Mourinho was unhappy with aspects his side’s performance: “It was wonderful for everyone at the stadium and watching television around the world — but not for me. We are improving in other areas but not keeping the balance in defence. Wednesday afternoon we spent 90 minutes defending corners and free-kicks but today we conceded from a free-kick so I cannot be happy with the ridiculous goal we conceded.”

Martinez was likewise disappointed: “We started too slow. But even then I felt we showed great character and great belief and I felt we were getting back into it, but every time we did we were dealt a sucker punch. Our defending was not as good as it should be.”

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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.