Chelsea climb to the top of the table after delivered a scintillating five-star performance against Everton on Bonfire Night.
The Blues lit up Stamford Bridge in special fashion as Hazard, Pedro, Costa and Alonso tore Everton, who held the league’s second-best defensive record, apart on a memorable night for the watching Chelsea faithful and Roman Abramovich.
It means the Blues have now won five league games in a row, a feat last achieved in December 2013, but particularly special will be the fact they have all been clean sheets since Conte changed to a 5-2-3 system.
And with Liverpool and Arsenal set to play tomorrow, it means Chelsea sit pretty at the top of the table with 25 points from 11 games.
It was the most dominant Chelsea first-half performance in many a long while, with the Blues recording nine shots to Everton’s zero and 61% of the possession.
Whilst not getting off the mark as quick as either against Manchester United or Southampton, the signs were there from the off. Moses sent an inswinging cross from the right, slightly too long but found Hazard who teed up Alonso, only for the Spaniard to mis-kick in a good position.
Everton were sitting back and happy to defend, and despite having the league’s second-best defensive record in the run-up to the game, Koeman felt it necessary to switch formations to match Chelsea with a 3-4-3.
Alonso and Moses were both sending in good crosses but Stekelenburg was equal to it. But ultimately that move backfired in double quick-time as Chelsea grabbed two in two minutes.
First, Hazard cut in despite having two defenders hot on his heels and his shot curled past the Everton goalkeeper. Pedro did expertly to cause confusion in Stekelenburg’s mind, but not illegally in the way said referee Madley.
23 seconds after the restart and it was two. Hazard was again involved, turning brilliantly and laid off a great ball to Pedro, who squared just behind Costa. No matter though as Alonso was following up to strike it between Stekelenburg’s legs.
Barkley’s free-kick nearly found Ashley Williams but Chelsea’s run of 440 minutes without conceding was never in trouble of being broken in this first half.
There were chances galore to make it three: firstly Costa could not get the ball out of his feet to free Hazard, then a stray backpass nearly had Hazard running in.
Moses had the best chance when Alonso’s floated ball found the right wing-back floating at the back post and his half-volley smashed the outside of the post with some venom.
But it was three soon after. Hazard’s corner was not dealt with by Everton and, at the second ball, Costa smashed home his ninth Premier League goal of the season.
Pedro was on fire all game and keen to get his goal, but should have had an assist when his amazing turn found Costa one-on-one but the Spaniard fired wide just before the half-time whistle.
Would the energy sap in the second-half and Everton re-group? No.
Moses and Matic tried to walk in the fourth, and Costa’s strike was blocked superbly by Williams. Costa had another try when Pedro found him, only for Stekelenburg to read it perfectly and smother.
The fourth goal came in superb fashion. Hazard passed to Pedro, who returned it to Hazard with an exquisite back-heel, and the Belgian cut in from the right-wing and took his left-footed shot early to catch Stekelenburg out, who could only watch the ball creep into his goal for the fourth time this Saturday tea-time.
Pedro was fully deserving of a goal and got his in the 65th minute via a tap-in. The fearsome trio of Costa, Hazard and Pedro all raced ahead and the Belgian’s shot was well-saved by Stekelenburg, but directly into the path of Pedro to volley home.
It was all becoming fun and games as Hazard was in an advanced position but opted to not pass but slickly find Alonso. A flurry of goal-bound shots later saw Costa attempt an overhead kick, but all the action was in Everton’s half, so much so that their first attempt on goal came only in the 71st minute from a corner.
Oscar was introduced to the party and found Costa with an excellent through ball but Williams smothered before Costa could get his side’s six, before Luiz tried a half-volley which Stekelenburg tipped over.
Moses, the perfect wing-back in this Chelsea system, was cutting in from left and right to get his goal, but it remained five, and five wins on the bounce for Chelsea, all of them without a goal being conceded.
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Man of the Match
EDEN HAZARD: Pedro has been truly unplayable tonight, with bags of energy and finesse and on any other day and with any other player would have secured my Man of the Match, but sadly for the Spaniard there is a little Belgian magician who has equally the same energy, the same finesse and provided two crucial goals today. An absolutely delight to watch as he glides across the pitch. 10/10
Conte was not getting carried away: “It was a good performance, I am pleased. I think we played good football, we created chances to score and kept a fifth clean sheet in a row. I am pleased for the players, they were fantastic. We must continue to work hard. It is fantastic to be top of the league, today it was important to play and to win.”
Koeman was resigned: “They played very well, I expected more from my team. It was a big difference in every aspect. You have to accept sometimes n life your opponent is by far the better team.”
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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