Antonio Conte dismissed suggestions Marcos Alonso fouled Hector Bellerin when opening the scoring in Chelsea’s 3-1 win over Arsenal and hailed a masterclass from Eden Hazard.
Alonso reacted sharply, if robustly, when charging in to head into an unguarded net after Diego Costa hit the Arsenal crossbar after 13 minutes.
The wing-back got the better of a stationary Bellerin, who was struck by Alonso’s arm in the challenge and had to be substituted shortly afterwards.
Arsene Wenger labelled the challenge as “100 per cent a foul” and “dangerous play”, although his opposite number believes such challenges are part and parcel of the game in England’s top flight.
Asked whether Alonso impinged upon the laws of the game, Conte replied: “In England, never. No.”
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) February 4, 2017
That Chelsea sit 12 points clear of their opponents at the top of the table owes much to Eden Hazard, who crowned a majestic performance with a stunning solo goal eight minutes into the second half.
“Hazard shows always quality,” Conte said, as quoted by BBC Sport.
“I am pleased for him. His performance was very good with the ball.
“But I want to underline without the ball because he worked a lot for the team.
“When he plays this way he is a complete player.”
Olivier Giroud’s stoppage-time consolation could not mask the sense of complete turnaround for a Chelsea side who suffered a chastening 3-0 loss at Emirates Stadium in September – a defeat which heralded Conte’s pivotal switch to the 3-4-2-1 system that has taken out all-comers.
“I must be crazy to think this would be the situation now,” said the disbelieving coach.
“Our start wasn’t good for many reasons. Only through work and great ability of the players has shown you can change the situation.
“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.”
The victory concluded a satisfactory week for Conte after Tuesday’s 1-1 draw at Liverpool and he added: “In four days we have had two games against two great teams. I think we are showing we deserve to stay on top of the table.
“I am very pleased for my players. In every session they show me great attitude and great will to fight and win this league.”
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