Chelsea ensured they re-instated their seven point lead at the top of the Premier League with a highly entertaining 3-1 victory over Bournemouth on Saturday teatime.
There had been slight pressure on the Blues before the match, after Tottenham Hotspur’s victory over Watford earlier on in the day had reduced the advantage on their rivals.
However, normal service was resumed by Chelsea as Bournemouth’s five game unbeaten run came to an end at a sunny afternoon at the Vitality Stadium.
Bournemouth suffer early pressure
Cherries manager Eddie Howe picked a surprisingly attacking team with two strikers up top in the shape of Benik Afobe and Joshua King, and it looked as though he may have regretted it as the Blues dominated possession in the early stages.
Bournemouth were struggling to deal with the short slick passes from Chelsea, and the space Victor Moses was finding himself down the right-hand flank was causing their defence plenty of problems soon in the match.
The Nigerian internatonal was benefitting from the Cherries’ narrow back-line and picked out man-of-the-match Marcos Alonso at the back post after 10 minutes, but the winger’s effort was crucially blocked by Adam Smith.
Chelsea score two in quick succession
Chelsea’s opening goal unsurprisingly came soon after and it was through a lucky moment that perhaps all teams are guilty of during a title-winning season.
David Luiz, who was allowed to spray long-balls from the back all afternoon, played a pass into Moses who found himself in acres of space on the right-side of the pitch and delivered a cross into Diego Costa.
The Spaniard miss-kicked his shot that was heading wide but the ball fortunately bounced off Smith and found the back of the net.
Costa will be disappointed to learn that his effort was given as an own-goal and it is now four Premier League games without adding to his 18 strikes this season.
In truth, it was a poor display from the hitman who managed a few scuffed attempts on goal during the day when he really should have done better by his standards.
The goal gave more confidence to Chelsea and they scored for the first time in a game for 15 matches in a row.
Within two minutes of the breakthrough, the Blues doubled their advantage as a stunning long-ball from N’Golo Kante picked out Hazard over the top of the defence, and the Belgian body-swerved Artur Boruc to send him the wrong way and slide the ball into the back of the net.
Surprisingly, it was Kante’s first assist in 30 games since he joined Chelsea in the summer.
Bournemouth suddenly wake up and exert pressure of their own
The second goal seemed to wake Bournemouth up and suddenly they were asking questions of the Blues.
Charlie Daniels produced some great work down the left and planted a cross into Afobe, who’s volley smashed against the post and back across goal, with Thibaut Courtois rooted to the spot.
Bournemouth continued to press and deservedly got their goal in the 42nd minute when a shot from King was deflected by Luiz and into the top corner.
It was the striker’s 13th strike this season and 10 in 11 matches to be the first Norwegian player to score that many times in a campaign since John Carew in 2007/08.
Howe’s attacking tactics seemed to be paying off and their aim to leave two strikers at the top of the pitch was causing Chelsea all kinds of problems.
Wilshere was pulling the strings in midfield and everything was coming through the on-loan Arsenal midfielder to further establish the fact that Bournemouth should do everything they can to sign him permanently in the summer.
The 25-year-old’s fitness has always been his only problem, but he has started to ease worries by completing 90 minutes on 14 occasions this campaign.
Alonso free-kick wraps up the game
For all of Bournemouth’s chances created, it was ultimately Chelsea who scored the vital third that enabled them to restore their two-goal advantage.
A free-kick was awarded 25-yards from goal and it was Alonso who stepped up to curl the ball over the top of the wall, sumptuously into the top corner.
Much like the whole of their season, Chelsea proved too good for their opposition today and are rapidly closing in on the Premier League crown with only five more wins needed to guarantee their champions status.
BOURNEMOUTH: Boruc 7 – Cook 6, Francis 6, Smith 6, Daniels 6 – Pugh 6 (Ibe 6), Fraser 7 (Gradel 6) – Afobe 7 (Mousset 6), Arter 7, Wilshere 7 – King 7
Unused subs: Brad Smith, Cook, Allsop, Cargill
CHELSEA: Courtois 7 – Azpilicueta 7, Cahill 7, Luiz 7, Alonso 8 – Moses 8 (Zouma 7), Matic 7, Kante 8 – Pedro 7 (Willian 6), Costa 6, Hazard 8 (Fabregas 6)
Unused subs: Begovic, Batshuayi, Terry, Chalobah
REFEREE: Andre Marriner
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