Eden Hazard proved to be the match-winner on Saturday night as Chelsea earned a 1-0 victory against AFC Bournemouth at the Vitality Stadium.
The Belgian wide-man netted an excellent break-away goal only a few minutes into the second-half as the reigning champions secured a hard-fought win against Eddie Howe’s struggling Cherries.
Bournemouth breathe sigh of relief
It was Blues who had the first sight of goal on the South Coast. Pedro picked up the ball on the edge of the Bournemouth penalty area but blazed his shot high over the bar. The hosts did though have an excellent chance of their own on the break but Benik Afobe’s pass for Charlie Daniels was just too wide and the attack broke down.
Chelsea enjoyed surely the best opening of the first half and it was by fault of former Blues’ stopper Asmir Begović. A poor kick from the Bosnian goalkeeper saw the ball go straight to Eden Hazard. The Belgian winger played through Álvaro Morata but the Spaniard put his shot wide from only a matter of yards.
The ex-Real Madrid forward did have the ball in the net long after but his strike was ruled out with César Azpilicueta being adjudged to be offside.
Begović brilliance saves Bournemouth
Morata again looked to open the scoring mid-way through the first half. Begović formed a formidable barrier as he thwarted Morata yet again as the Spaniard’s shot was deflected over the crossbar. Eddie Howe attempted to stem the waves of Chelsea attacks after the break as he introduced Jordon Ibe for veteran striker Jermain Defoe.
The substitution did not pay off for the Cherries as Chelsea went into the lead. Morata latched onto the ball in the Bournemouth midfield and lofted a pass through to Hazard that just evaded a touch from Simon Francis. The Belgian tore down on goal and finished low past Begović from a tight angle.
Home side huff
The hosts did attempt to get back in the game and could have drawn level through substitute Jordon Ibe. The English winger collected a pass from Junior Stanislas and attempted to fire home but his shot drifted just over the Chelsea crossbar.
Antonio Conte’s men though continued to carry the much bigger threat on goal and had it not been for Hazard scooping his effort over, the Blues could have earned a two-goal advantage. Pedro also had a chance to secure the three points but his low shot was straight at Begović.
Problems pile-up for Eddie Howe
The Cherries’ night continued to go from bad to worse as both Stanislas and Benik Afobe had to be withdrawn due to injury. Antonio Conte was also forced into a few changes as he introduced Danny Drinkwater and Michy Batshuayi for Pedro and Morata.
Cesc Fabregas could have captured victory for the visitors but his shot flew wide from a tight angle from what was an excellent chance. The Spaniard’s lack of killer instinct could well have haunted the champions as Bournemouth flooded forwards in the final few seconds. Andrew Surman broke into the Chelsea box before passing the ball to Cook. The defender swivelled and shot but the ball fell straight to Courtois as the Blues celebrated a hard-fought victory at the Vitality Stadium.
On what could have potentially have been a tricky night on the South Coast, champions Chelsea were worthy of their three points. The Blues carved out numerous chances to add to their season’s tally which eventually came in the form of Hazard’s strike. Now undefeated in four, the Blues head to Rome mid-week in excellent health and remain fourth in the Premier League table.
Elsewhere, Bournemouth’s troubles in front of goal continue as they still lumber second-bottom in the table. Their attacking was almost non-existent on Saturday evening, hence why Defoe was substituted at half-time. They will certainly ahead of next weekend’s clash with Newcastle United at St James’ Park.
Bournemouth: Begović (6); Francis (6), Aké (6), S. Cook (6); Smith (5), L. Cook (6), Surman (6), Daniels (6); Stanislas (6) (Pugh (5) 63′), Defoe (5) (Ibe (7), 45′), Afobe (6) (Wilson (6), 74′).
Chelsea: Courtois (7), Rüdiger (7), Luiz (6), Azpilicueta (6); Zappacosta (6), Fàbregas (7), Bakayoko (7), Alonso (7); Hazard (8) (Willian (N/A), Pedro (7) (Drinkwater (6), 79′), Morata (6) (Batshuayi (5), 79′).
Goals: Hazard (51′)
Referee: Craig Pawson
Yellow Cards: Smith (59′), Francis (88′)
Red Cards: N/A
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