Chelsea leave it late with 87th minute Cahill winner to see off Stoke City 2-1

Match Summary

Chelsea extend their lead at the top of the table to 13 points, but they left it late against a stubborn Stoke City side.

Two set-pieces in the first half, one free-kick from Willian and one penalty by Walters, looked to be the only goals of the game as both teams would have to settle for a share of the spoils, but Cahill, who earlier gave away the penalty against Walters, atoned with three minutes left on the clock.

The Blues have won 18 of their 20 Premier League matches this season against the teams currently outside the top five, but only won two of their last seven games away to Stoke in all competitions, so it was no surprise to see a cagey match settled only in the 87th minute by a Cahill winner.

In the end though the Blues do march back to London with three points and, with title rivals playing later, a healthy 13-point gap with 10 games left to play.

Costa, clearly incensed with the lack of protection, could not keep his mouth shut for much beyond a quarter of an hour, and Taylor showed him the early yellow card.

But whilst on a personal level Costa was unhappy, his side should have been in celebratory mood as Willian’s free-kick gave the visitors an early lead. Sensing opportunity and seeing a gap in Lee Grant’s goal, Willian took his set-piece quickly and Grant fumbled the ball into his own net in a comical goal, but they all count as Willian, who scored twice against Stoke on New Year’s Eve, wheeled away to celebrate.

The Potters have kept three clean sheets in their last four league games, but the record was not to be preserved here. It could have got worse had Victor Moses’ shot not been blocked. Alonso then was on the receiving end of a well-worked set-piece by Willian, but shot straight at Lee Grant when anywhere else and it would have been a second.

Costa nearly laid on a perfect through-ball to Pedro, who was on the move and would have been one-on-one, but Stoke had their opportunities, especially when Arnautovic squared a ball into the box before Kante intercepted.

Stoke then thought they had equalised, but a superb call by assistant Adam Nunn denied the goal. On initial viewing it looked like Nunn’s flag was raised for offside, but goalscorer Martins Indi was not, but the foul appeared to have been instead about Berahino’s push on Azpilicueta, with the Englishman offside and interfering with play by stopping Apilicueta potentially getting to the ball before Martins Indi did.

It was a superb call, but Stoke would be on the receiving end of a favourable refereeing call minutes later.

A free-kick floated in looked long and was to be Courtois’ all day, except Gary Cahill wanted to make sure Walters could not reach it by pushing him over. Chelsea have only given away one spot-kick this season but, despite no protestation, Taylor awarded Walters the spot-kick, and Walters himself blasted home.

The Blues have kept just two clean sheets in their last nine league games, having recorded 10 shut-outs in the previous 12 matches, but despite the defensive frailties the attacking prowess was still on show.

Pedro had two great chances, one with each foot, from 10 yards out but was inaccurate, whilst later on in the match the Spaniard was slow when one-on-one and allowed Cameron to get back.

Luiz was clever to read a cut-back by the Stoke attack and broke up play effectively, but the second half was as evenly-pegged as the first.

Pedro was then nearly fed through by Willian but for Pieters to haul him down, bringing him a yellow card, whilst Alonso was agonisingly close to doubling his side’s lead from a free-kick, with the crossbar still rattling for several seconds afterwards.

Matic tried his hand at a long-range speculative shot just as Cesc Fabregas was about to enter the fray as Conte looked to press on.

Pedro and Willian were again continuing to be at the thick of things, but evidently missing Eden Hazard, who had to miss today’s game with an unspecified injury.

Loftus-Cheek then came on in a rare appearance, but Stoke were well-organised and well-drilled.

But for all their huffing and puffing, there was last-minute heart-break as Gary Cahill atoned for his earlier penalty giveaway with a right-footed shot from inside the box. Loftus-Cheek did well to pressure Pieters to give away a corner, and from Willian’s delivery Cahill slammed home the loose ball.

Costa, aiming for his 50th Premier League goal, then hit the post, before Bardsley was sent off late on for picking up a needless second yellow card, but victory will be sweet for Antonio Conte, with his side digging out the points as, some would say, the mark of champions.

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

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Man of the Match

WILLIAN: Huffed and puffed and, alongside Pedro, at the centre of every Chelsea action. Not given much game time under Antonio Conte, with Pedro and Hazard when fit preferred as the two support men for Costa, but the Brazilian today showed perfectly why he can put in a shift too, being smart to take his goal from the free-kick and an all-round excellent display, getting into shooting positions and weaving his way in and out of defenders with ease due to a quick change of pace. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was not getting ahead of himself, but enjoyed the win: “I am pleased because to play Stoke at this point of the season, you have to be prepared mentally and physically. It was a tough game We need to take 21 points for the title win. There are 10 games to go, today was a great win, a good signal but it is important to continue with the same commitment and work rate as a team.”

Hughes rued the loss: “We are desperately disappointed we did not get anything out of the game.It was an evenly matched game and they had late opportunities when we went for a goal. It is Chelsea’s title now and you could see from their celebrations we ran them close.”

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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 defeat Manchester United 1-0 to set up Wembley date with Tottenham

Match Summary

Chelsea book a Wembley date against Tottenham Hotspur after seeing past Manchester United 1-0.

A solo goal by N’Golo Kante in the second half was enough to provide Antonio Conte his first taste of Wembley at the end of April, and despite the slender score-line, it was a match Chelsea dominated, with the hosts recording 73% possession and some 20 shots to the visitor’s four.

The turning point of the match will undoubtedly have been in the 35th minute when Ander Herrera took one for the team for his side’s incessant and persistent fouls on Hazard, and when Michael Oliver was generous to let Phil Jones off for the third time, the next foul on the Belgian would have been sanctioned and it was unfortunate Herrera took the brunt of it having already had a yellow to his name.

That should not take the gloss off a fine Chelsea — and indeed Manchester United in most parts — performance, against a Tottenham side keen to avenge the 5-1 loss against Chelsea in the FA Cup semi-final five years ago.

It was a start to the half which would have pleased Mourinho, who would no doubt have been lecturing his side repeatedly to avoid the disastrous start in the 4-0 drubbing in October.

Whilst there was no goal by Pedro after 30 seconds — namely because the Spaniard was on the bench — the match kicked into life from the off, with Manchester United adopting an aggressive man-marking approach, affording Chelsea little space and time on the ball.

Cahill was the man targetted, with the Chelsea captain not possessing the most angelic of feet, and Mkhitaryan was the first to worry Courtois, dragging a left foot shot just wide of the far post.

One man with more agile feet was Eden Hazard. Just a quarter of an hour in, the Belgian, who was tightly marked and fouled all evening, did superbly well to beat three men, turn Jones and get his shot away, only to see it expertly saved by De Gea.

From the ensuing corner, Cahill was man-handled but managed to get his shot away, again thwarted by an excellent De Gea right hand.

Seconds later Macros Alonso then sent a pile driver wide, as Manchester United were starting to be on the back foot after a strong opening.

Ander Herrera was booked for a cynical shoulder barge stopping Hazard from progressing his run, but the ball did fall to Costa, who could not capitalise on Michael Oliver’s advantage.

The Belgian then raced clean through, but his shot with his left foot was wild and sailed over the bar. Costa was then inches away from feeding a through-ball to Marcos Alonso who made a smart run down the left as Chelsea turned it up a notch.

Phil Jones then fouled Eden Hazard for the third time, and after Oliver spoke to Jones and Smalling that this would be his final chance before a yellow card, Herrera was stupid to get involved as soon as he took the free-kick, fouling Hazard again literally two seconds after Michael Oliver had warned the Manchester United team to stop the persistent fouling. Whilst Herrera’s foul was not worthy of a standalone yellow card, the irony is Jones’ fortune to escape one was Herrera’s misfortune, as Oliver was clearly ready to card anyone who next fouled the diminutive Belgian.

Chelsea had the best part of an hour left with a one man advantage, but with Fellani manning the shores, both sides trickled into the half-time break honours even, with a late Moses shot unlikely to test De Gea.

But the Blues did not have to wait long in the second half to make Mourinho pay.

A probing Chelsea attack saw Kante free in the centre of the pitch 20 yards out, and when Rojo simply kept his distance and put his hands behind his back, it invited Kante to try his hand, and try his hand he did, curling the ball expertly by De Gea, who looked unstoppable all evening.

It needed something to beat the Spaniard tonight, and this element of surprise from Kante, arguable the last Chelsea man you would expect to score, was perhaps it. The Frenchman has scored two goals for Chelsea, and both have come against the Red Devils.

Manchester United’s biggest chance then came through Marcus Rashford, who was leading the line admirably with Rooney and Ibrahimovic both out for different reasons. The Englishman collected a stray header by Luiz, ran rings around Cahill but the final shot was weak and stopped by Courtois’ legs.

Costa then had a totally free header from a corner which he failed to capitalise on, whilst Willian’s effort as we entered the final 20 minutes was harder but still concerned De Gea.

Moses and Willian worked the ball well down the right and Costa missed another sitter from one yard out, failing to sort his feet out for the tap-in, with Alonso and Hazard doing their best to recycle play.

But whilst the second goal would have made the match more comfortable for the vast majority inside Stamford Bridge, Manchester United failed to probe any more and Chelsea settled with the solo goal by N’Golo Kante.

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: Whilst N’Golo Kante must take plaudits for another robust outing, adding to his game with the winning goal, the man who got right under Manchester United’s skin and caused the initial rattling has to be Eden Hazard. The Belgian is everywhere and at the heart of everything good Chelsea produce, as shown by how much he is fouled. He caused the visitors all sorts of problems — Herrera got sent off for his troubles — and generally oozes confidence and class, not making a meal out of a blatant stamp on his chest by Rojo. 8/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was thrilled: “It was a good performance against a strong team with good players. United has the best squad in the league. For us we must be pleased to go into the next round.” On the persistent fouling of Hazard: “This tactic, to play by going to kick the opponent, does not exist. It is not football for me. I do not think this can be a tactic.”

Mourinho understood the congestion of his fixture list: “I just want to say that I am really proud of my players and Manchester United fans. We have a very important match on Thursday and I want to rest a little bit and prepare as best as we can.”

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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.

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

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

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

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

But Chelsea never looked like losing control.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Man of the Match

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

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Manager Reaction

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

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

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Fan View

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

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

Chelsea 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.

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.

Chelsea set up quarter-final date with Manchester United after seeing aside Wolves 2-0

Match Summary

Chelsea dispatched Wolverhampton Wanderers, albeit not easily, in the FA Cup Fifth Round to set up a quarter-final date with Manchester United.

Late goals by Pedro and Diego Costa saw off a determined Wolves side who more than gave the Premier League leaders a run for their money, but the Blues prevailed and will welcome back ex-manager Jose Mourinho in three week’s time, knowing a win there will set up Antonio Conte’s first date with Wembley.

Still, the job needed doing in the West Midlands first in front of a 30,000-strong crowd, the largest Wolves attendance for more than three decades, who kept Chelsea waiting until the 64th minute before breaking the deadlock, and the 89th before securing the win, much to Conte’s relief.

With no mid-week European travels for Antonio Conte to contend with this season, the FA Cup can be kept high in the Italian’s agenda, as demonstrated by a formidable starting line-up which boasted the likes of Costa, Hazard, Fabregas and Terry. Whilst there was a flurry of youth in Ake and Chalobah, one must feel for Batshuayi, who has been given precious little game-time for a £33 million buy last summer.

But despite all the talk about who would be spearheading Chelsea’s attack, the first notable attack came at Chelsea’s rear end. Zouma’s clearance landed at the feet of former Chelsea youth player George Saville, who made perfect contact with the ball but, with his weaker left foot, lacked the accuracy as the ball crashed back off the post with Begovic well beaten. It was a glorious chance, and the post was still shaking for minutes afterwards.

The last time these sides met was in 2012 in the League Cup where Chelsea dished up a 6-0 lesson, but tonight’s game was anything but a walk-over and the frenetic start — Weimann had a shot moments later also — should have served as enough warning for the visitors, who started to get in the mood soon after.

Fabregas pinged a delicious ball over the top of the Wolves defence and Willian controlled well, but his attempted lob of the goalkeeper was not to fool Ikeme who got a hand on it.

The same man Willian nearly caught himself in a spot of bother when helping out his wing-back Victor Moses at the other end, brushing aside Weimann a little clumsily, if legitimately, in the eyes of Jonathan Moss.

Costa — Wolves’ Helder Costa — then had the game’s next opening, testing the Chelsea back-line and Begovic, in what was a very tough opening 20 minutes for the Blues with the hosts well on top.

Wolves really needed to convert their chances, none more so than from an excellent Dougherty cross, but Bodvarsson was inaccurate in his heading.

Costa had a half-chance on the stroke of half-time — on the volley with his back to goal — but the Blues needed to step things up in the second half to avoid an FA Cup upset, and it was not going to come through long-range Zouma drives which landed closer to Row Z than the back of the net.

Thankfully, it was another one of the Chelsea back-line who would get Chelsea up and running: Pedro. The position of left wing-back almost does the magic Spaniard a disservice, such is his attacking prowess and ability to leave defenders flat-footed, but despite a more reserved role this evening partnered next to Ake, the 29-year-old took it upon himself to break the deadlock.

Fabregas floated a ball over to Costa, whose control was clean but took him further away from goal down the right wing. A short cut-back to Hazard opened up play for Willian, who spotted Pedro cutting in from the left-wing. The Brazilian’s cross-field ball was inch-perfect and Pedro, now in and around the penalty spot, evaded all defenders and headed home expertly to preserve his record of having scored in every FA Cup round so far.

Moments before that it looked like Chelsea would rue Costa hitting the side netting when presented with a glorious opportunity, but Pedro made amends for his compatriot.

Conte was getting nervy and Azpilicueta and Kante came on to shore up the Chelsea defence as the game entered the last 20 minutes, but in the last one minute Chelsea’s lead would double.

The ball was well worked by Fabregas and Kante and, after fortuitously bouncing off a Wolves defender into the path of Costa, the Spaniard took it in his stride to sweep home.

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 magician is not getting much game time in Conte’s settled — and winning — formula with a Matic and Kante pairing in the middle of the park, but when he does get his opportunity boy does the Spaniard look at ease. Effortless passing and reading of the game and yet still only a periphery player just shows the embarrassment of talent Chelsea possess, but Fabregas is always a man Conte can rely on. 7/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was relieved: “A very difficult game but we all knew this. We had many chances but this is the FA Cup. The results this afternoon show there is no easy games. Don’t forget, I changed seven players. It is good to have a good answer from the players who are not playing a lot. We showed great commitment to fight, to win and to continue in this competition.”

Lambert was proud of his Championship side: “I could not ask for any more. The game plan was unbelievably performed and we were up against a world-class side. Not just class, world-class. They have won Champion Leagues, so many honours, but we gave it a good go.”

 

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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 held to frustrating 1-1 draw at Burnley

Match Summary

Chelsea’s lead at the top of the table cut be cut to eight points by Monday night after failing to see off a stubborn Burnley side at Turf Moor.

The visitors lead at the top of the table currently stands at 10 points, and looked to be heading to 12 after Pedro broke the deadlock early on, but Brady’s expect free-kick cut it back down to 10, and should Manchester City beat Bournemouth on Monday evening, the race could intensify with 13 games left.

Little wonder why Antonio Conte was frantically trying to secure all three points, throwing on Fabregas and Willian with still 20 minutes left in place of Moses and Matic, but neither they, nor Batshuayi who later joined the fray, could see the Blues through.

In truth it was no more than they deserved, as a dogged Burnley outfit show again why they are well clear of this season’s relegation dogfight, as the points were shared on a cold Sunday afternoon.

In both of the Clarets’ previous Premier League seasons, Chelsea have been crowned champions. Coupled with the fact the Blues are the league’s best away side this season — and with five league wins and a draw from six Sunday games — then you would be forgiven for thinking the omens looked superb for today’s visitors.

And given Chelsea have 30 more points than they did at this stage last season, it was no surprise to see that feel-good factor in the opening quarter of an hour which brought about the game’s first goal.

Hazard found Moses in acres of space down Chelsea’s right, and after carrying the ball some 40 yards, the Nigerian laid it off to Pedro, who took one touch to wrong-foot his marker before sliding it past Tom Heaton in the Burnley goal, to record his ninth goal in all competitions for Chelseas this season, surpassing his total of eight in the last campaign.

It was a quick goal, and that was no doubt what caught Heaton off-guard, but the warning signs should have been there as Hazard has tested the goalkeeper just 60 seconds earlier.

Chelsea  have scored the first goal of the game 19 times this season, more times than any other Premier League team, and have yet to lose, so the start was no surprise, but Burnley were not caving in just yet, despite never having won a Premier League encounter against Chelsea.

Or, indeed, they were to not cave in at all, for Pedro’s goal was the last shot on target Chelsea would have for the rest of the game, and that was only the seventh minute.

Ashley Barnes was causing Luiz, sporting a new tied-back ponytail, and Cahill problems, but the real peach of an equaliser came just past the mid-way point of the first half.

Matic supplied the free-kick for which Robbie Brady, with one swipe of the left foot, buried into the back of the net, beyond the outstretched arm of one of the league’s tallest goalkeepers in Courtois. It was an excellent set-piece, with Brady becoming the first player to score a direct free-kick against Chelsea in the Premier League since Rickie Lambert in March 2013.

It could have been two for the hosts just before the break had Lowton been more clinical in front of Courtois, and soon after Cahill was flying in to deny Boyd, as Burnley stepped up a gear.

It most definitely should have been two straight after the break, after a horrendous error by Luiz saw the ball find Gray, who one-on-one with Courtois focused too heavily on just hitting the target, and the Belgian’s legs did the job.

Just before that, Diego Costa looked to have worked himself some room with Marcos Alonso before he was charged down, but it was to be a quiet affair for the Spaniard, who has failed to score in three consecutive Premier League appearances for the first time in 10 months.

Lowton nearly found Barnes at the other end but for a strong Luiz header away, but Chelsea were not getting anywhere themselves, unless you could speculative long-range shots from Cesar Azpilicueta.

Fabregas and Willian entered the fray early as Conte had seen enough to feel the push for a winning goal needed 20+ minutes, but they were not able to conjure up anything significant either.

Cynical fouls by Burnley did result in a few Chelsea free-kicks, but there was no clear cut opportunity as the game drew to a close.

The Blues take a break from the Premier League with next week’s encounter being in Wolverhampton for the FA Cup, before trying to return back to winning ways against Swansea the week later.

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

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Man of the Match

thibaut-courtois-thumbnailTHIBAUT COURTOIS: It was not that Chelsea had a particularly bad day, it is just no-one really stepped up their game when they needed to, and coupled with excellent Burnley tactics which often saw them revert to a back six when the Blues had the ball, it was easy to see why Chelsea could not score a winner. Instead, Burnley nearly did — twice — and so it needed smart reactions from Courtois to prevent the loss. 6/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte knew the challenged he faced: “We tried to win but we know Burnley at home are not easy. They have taken 29 points at home. I think we tried to build and do our football for sure [but] Burnley tried to disrupt our play. They played long balls and the second ball is not easy. At home they are very tough. It is one point and for sure we must be disappointed. We tried to win.”

Dyche was delighted: “Chelsea are a fine side. We limited them to two shots on target and that is tough enough [but then ourselves] we made four or five really good chances. I am very pleased overall. I was super impressed with our reaction to their goal.”

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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 move 12 points clear at top of table with clinical 3-1 win against Arsenal

Match Summary

Chelsea made amends for September’s heavy 3-0 defeat to Arsenal with a 3-1 victory of their own to cement their position at the top of the table.

Goals by Alonso and Fabregas came either side of a spectacular solo goal by Eden Hazard, before Olivier Giroud scored a consolation in injury time, but it was not enough to stop Chelsea moving 12 points clear — at least temporarily — at the top of the table.

It avenges defeat for Conte, who switched formation after losing this reverse fixture, that at the time led to his side being three points behind today’s visitors, only to find this victory surely kill off any of Arsenal’s title hopes this time round.

The Gunners have lost their last four games at Stamford Bridge, conceding 12 goals and scoring just one, and with referee Martin Atkinson having refereed four of these ties with each and every one resulting in a Chelsea win, the omens were not good with the Gunners this Saturday lunch-time.

Despite this, Arsenal are the only side Chelsea have not scored against this season, and when early mistakes crept into Chelsea’s play, for example a loose ball by Courtois to Luiz which was intercepted by Ozil, Iwobi then had a good chance to put his side in front.

It was a fast opening 10 minutes, with Arsenal’s top three in their 4-3-3 formation (Ozil, Sanchez and Walcott) harrying Chelsea’s back three in their 3-4-3 formation (Cahill, Luiz and Azpilicueta), and especially keen to make amends for their mid-week loss to Watford.

Regardless of Cahill’s defensive duties though, the Englishman had the chance to break the deadlock from a free-kick, but despite the free header, headed too lowly to trouble Cech.

Where Cahill could not break the deadlock, one of his defensive partners Marcos Alonso could. Stunning work down the right by Moses and Pedro say the ball floated in, and when Costa charged in and beat his marker, his bullet header cannoned back off the crossbar. A moment of panic ensued but Alonso raced in ahead of Bellerin to power home the game’s first goal, with the Spaniard having to depart the game due to his troubles.

Moments later, Costa was in again but culd only find the side-netting, whilst Hazard drew the game’s first yellow card after a cynical foul by Mustafi. Pedro’s free-kick was cleared, but the link-up play between him, Hazard and Costa was sublime and warranted another goal, none more so than when, from an Arsenal free-kick, Hazard countered and Costa, had he looked up, should have played in Pedro who was in acres of space; instead the attack was smothered.

Pedro then took a shot for himself which spun deceptively for Cech, who bundled the ball away for a corner, but his side did begin to cause damage at the other end. A quick free-kick saw Sanchez nearly feed in Walcott, whilst Gabriel and Coquelin both had chances from two corners. The best of the lot nearly came from Ozil, who found the ball after Matic was dispossessed. The German cut back on his left-foot but opted to go for Courtois’ near post, which he had covered, rather than try the more ambitious far post.

But it was still Cech’s former side in command and this continued into the second half.

The Blues have won eight successive home league matches, scoring 24 times and conceding just three, so it was understandable they were not keen to lose the record. Hazard was nearly through, but Koscielny had the run on him, and moments later the Belgian should have again done better from a Kante pass.

Fear not, as the Belgian would eventually take one of these chances and score what turned out to be a quite spectacular goal.

Collecting the ball from within his own half, the Belgian ran menacingly at Arsenal, planting Coquelin firmly on his backside, ringing Kocielny round in circles before walking it in past Cech. It was a great advantage goal by Martin Atkinson as Hazard was fouled on multiple occasions when racing past four Arsenal defenders, but for a man who has not had a shot on target in the past three games, it was a special goal.

Costa wanted to join in on the fun and was nearly in had he perfected his scissor-kick technique from a Moses cross, whilst again from another counter Hazard could not find Pedro.

There was still fire in Arsenal’s belly, under the watchful eye of Arsene Wenger from the directors’ box serving the third of his four-game ban, as shown by an Iwobi cross and successive headed opportunities by Welbeck and Mustafi.

As the game neared its conclusion, Conte decided to shore up his line-up by bringing on Fabregas, Willian and Zouma, but indeed the former put the game beyond all doubt.

Against his former side, the Spaniard collected a terrible clearance by Cech, who himself was playing his former side, and the 29-year-old simply lobbed the ball into an empty net. Respectfully, Fabregas decided not to celebrate.

One of Wenger’s late chances himself scored a goal, Olivier Giroud, powering a header in deep into injury time. Chelsea have kept 13 clean sheets in the league this season, a joint-high in the top five European leagues with Paris St-Germain, but it was not to be 14, even if the points were well secured.

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

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Man of the Match

eden-hazard-thumbnailEDEN HAZARD: Every Chelsea player meant business today, and the work of Kante and Azpilicueta can never be under-estimated, but to win you still need someone to pull the strings and it was the second goal, and more so the manner of it, that killed off all Arsenal life in the game. The way the Belgian glided past four Arsenal men, and then slotted coolly past Cech, will surely be a Goal of the Season contender. 8/10

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Manager Reaction

Conte was in fine voice: “It was an important game. I consider Arsenal one of the six teams that can fight for the title until the end of the season. To put them 12 points behind is very important for us. I am very pleased for my players. In every session they show me great attitude and great will to fight and win this league.”

Wenger was complimentary: “Chelsea are in a very strong position. They look solid, difficult to beat and we needed to be better today. They don’t lose against the big teams and that is always the secret to win a championship.”

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Fan View

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

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