Pedro netted twice as Chelsea claimed a club-record 12th successive top-flight victory with a 3-0 home triumph over Bournemouth to continue their Premier League title charge on Monday.
Antonio Conte’s league leaders – who put the pressure back on the chasing pack – shrugged off the absence of suspended talisman Diego Costa, with replacement Pedro’s stunning first-half goal setting them on their way.
The Cherries, who won at Stamford Bridge last season, were a match for their high-flying hosts in the first half, but saw Jack Wilshere twice denied from good positions.
And the hosts, who have won the title on each of the previous four occasions they have topped the table at Christmas, extended their lead in the 49th minute courtesy of Eden Hazard’s penalty.
50 – Eden Hazard is the 6th player to score 50 PL goals for Chelsea after Lampard, Drogba, Hasselbaink, Zola & Gudjohnsen. Elite.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) December 26, 2016
Eddie Howe’s side dug in to limit the damage and were not without chances of their own, but Pedro struck again in stoppage time to add some gloss to the scoreline.
The Blues are, temporarily at least, nine points clear at the summit, though that will be cut if Manchester City, who face Hull City later on Monday, or Liverpool triumph in their next fixtures.
With Costa and N’Golo Kante banned, Pedro and Cesc Fabregas filled in as Michy Batshuayi was again left on the bench.
It was a quick-thinking Fabregas who lofted a free-kick into the path of Pedro, forcing Simon Francis to make a timely intervention inside the opening five minutes.
Hazard called Artur Boruc into action after quarter of an hour with a low drive that was always well within the goalkeeper’s reach.
The hosts continued to look the more threatening and Pedro cut in from the left before firing wide with a swerving effort across the face of goal.
The breakthrough came at the end of a well-worked move, finished by Pedro when he curled a superb strike over Boruc from the edge of the box for his fourth goal in the last five matches at Stamford Bridge.
Bournemouth produced a spirited response and Thibaut Courtouis had to make a smart near-post save to deny Wilshere a prompt leveller.
The Arsenal loanee also saw a volley deflected wide on the half-hour mark, while Fabregas lifted a set-piece just over the crossbar at the other end.
Conte was afforded a more restful second half after Francis felled Hazard in the box and the Belgian put the spot-kick away for his 50th Premier League goal.
A Victor Moses half-volley flashed wide of Boruc’s right-hand upright as Chelsea sought to put the game beyond Bournemouth’s reach.
It was not all good news for the Blues, though, as Pedro’s yellow card earned him a suspension for the New Year’s Day visit of Stoke City.
Indeed, they could have been in for a nervy final 18 minutes had Courtois not made a fine stop from Benik Afobe after the substitute went through one-on-one.
But that was as close as Howe’s charges came to setting up a grandstand finish, with Chelsea ending 2016 on a high as Pedro’s deflected effort rounded off a swift counter-attack and made it 3-0.
Full-time: Chelsea 3-0 Bournemouth! #CHEBOU
12 wins in a row! pic.twitter.com/tWZxX6i0Hm
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) December 26, 2016
Key Opta stats:
– Chelsea have won 12 consecutive league games for the first time in their history.
– Antonio Conte is the first Premier League manager to win 15 of his first 18 games in the competition.
– Eden Hazard is the sixth player to score 50 Premier League goals for Chelsea after Frank Lampard, Didier Drogba, Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink, Gianfranco Zola and Eidur Gudjohnsen.
– Only Hasselbaink (84), Drogba (106) and Gudjohnsen (153) reached 50 Premier League goals for Chelsea in fewer games than Hazard (155).
– Cesc Fabregas has provided 98 assists in the Premier League; only Wayne Rooney (101), Frank Lampard (102) and Ryan Giggs (162) have more in the competition’s history.
– Fabregas has scored or assisted in each of his last three Premier League starts for Chelsea (one goal, two assists).
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