Chelsea made it a club-record 12 Premier League wins in a row with a 3-0 home demolition of Bournemouth.
The Blues gifted their home faithful with a belated Christmas present with three goals, three points and a run of form unprecedented in Chelsea’s history, meaning the Blues extend their lead at the top of the table to seven points.
It started, and ended, with two Pedro goals, sandwiched in-between being an Eden Hazard penalty who led the line ahead of Michy Batshuayi with Costa suspended. Whatever formation, personnel or tactics Conte implements, it looks like everything he touches is turning to gold.
You would be forgiven for thinking Boxing Day affairs may tend to have slow and sluggish starts, with fans still nursing a hang-over and not in tip-top voice and the players still digesting their Christmas meals, but with Conte insisting his squad met up for training on Christmas Day, this excuse could not be afforded on Chelsea.
After an uneventful first quarter of an hour, the Blues then started to turn up the gears. Pedro fizzed a shot wide after being found by Luiz, but would have the ball in the back of the net moments later.
After a neat interchange between Fabregas and Hazard, the Belgian found Pedro but the Spaniard was boxed in with seemingly little room to manoeuvre. But all the former Barcelona ace needed was a yard, and with one touch onto his left foot, the 29-year-old looped a ball over Boruc. It was a smart goal and got Chelsea going.
Wilshere nearly had a chance to instantly equalise, running through the heart of the Chelsea defence and needing an outstretched leg by Courtois to stop the visitors levelling.
Fabregas then had a set-piece opportunity afforded to him with Willian and Luiz both opting to pass up on the opportunity, and the Spaniard was not far off with his 25-yard free-kick; the ball just landed on the top of the net rather than in it.
It did become two just three minutes into the second-half though. Hazard was playing as the false nine, often appearing on the right-wing but this time he was in the centre and looked to be gliding past Simon Francis to go clear through on goal, but the Cherries’ skipper stuck out an outstretched leg and it was a stonewall penalty. The Belgian converted with superb aplomb, bringing him to 50 Premier League goals.
With the life sucked out of Bournemouth, it was proving to be Chelsea dictating the second-half, with Pedro and Hazard in particular running the show.
Willian too had shots at Boruc’s goal, whilst Moses wasted an excellent opportunity, but the link-up play between Hazard and Pedro was just sublime to counter Bournemouth who often had large shares of the possession but could not handle the turn of pace of the two wingers.
2-0 is always a risky score-line to get complacent at, none more so than when Wilshere laid on a delicious-looking ball to Afobe, who spun Luiz and got his shot away. Thankfully Courtois was quick out of his goal, but the warning signs were there that the game was not over.
2-0 would have been a respectable score-line but it did get one better for the Blues in injury time. Breaking at pace again, Pedro cut inside on his right and rifled a shot goalwards, with the heavy deflection sending Boruc wrong-footed and securing all the points for Chelsea.
Next up will be Stoke on Saturday, but crucially without in-form Pedro whose goals will be missed on today’s evidence after he picked up a yellow card, but there looks to be no stopping Chelsea at the minute.
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Man of the Match
PEDRO: The Spaniard had a lukewarm debut season in English football, and whilst much has been made of Conte’s transformations of the likes of Moses and Alonso, another player he has got firing on all cylinders (perhaps at Willian’s expense) is Pedro. The Spaniard is truly showing his pace, his creativity and his eye for a pass and a goal, none so more typified that today’s outing where he and Hazard ran the show. 8/10
Conte was not getting carried away: “To win 12 games in a row is not easy in this league. It’s a fantastic run but it’s important to continue that now. In four days we have another tough game and we have to prepare very well. Because now every team wants to beat you.”
Howe was pragmatic: “You can’t be too upbeat about getting beaten 3-0 but there were fine margins and many elements of our game-plan worked. The second goal just after half-time was the decisive moment.”