Chelsea made light work of a trip to the John Smith’s Stadium against a Huddersfield side who could have proved tough opponents.
Despite claims of the league title slipping away from the Blues given Manchester CIty’s imperious form, a comfortable 3-1 win over the newly promoted side has shortened the gap to Pep Guardiola’s side back to 11 points, although Man City have a game in hand this evening.
Antonio Conte opted to go without a striker for the clash and played Pedro in place of Alvaro Morata, who was injured in the 1-0 loss to West Ham at the weekend. Eden Hazard, Willian and Pedro all featured in the Blues’ attack as Michy Batshuayi was left on the bench.
It was clear that the champions wanted to bounce back from the performance at the London Stadium and they were quickly in full flow. They were untouchable and got the lead they deserved in the 23rd minute as Tiemoue Bakayoko raced onto a clever Willian pass before clipping the ball over the onrushing Jonas Lossl. It wasn’t long before the Blues doubled their lead with Willian once again at the forefront.
He met Marcos Alonso’s whipped cross on the stroke of half-time with a downward header that was just out of reach for the Huddersfield goalkeeper. Conte would have been very pleased at what he had seen in the opening 45 minutes against a side who had beaten Manchester United at home and pushed Man City all the way.
It took just five minutes after the restart for Chelsea to put the game beyond doubt and Willian got his second assist of the evening as he laid the ball off to the edge of the box, where Pedro was waiting to fire the ball into the top corner. At this point, it was just a question of how many more the Blues would score on their way to another three points.
Eden Hazard was absolutely fantastic again for Conte’s side. Everything that Chelsea were doing was going through their Belgian playmaker with several fancy tricks and flicks and tricks along the way, one of which presented Pedro with a chance to make it four but his left-footed strike flashed wide. It was cruise control for the visitors for the final 40 minutes as they didn’t allow the depleted hosts a way back into the match.
However, their hopes of a comfortable win with a clean sheet were spoiled in the dying moments with the last kick of the game as Laurent Depoitre’s brilliant header snuck into Thibaut Courtois’ top corner from a pin-point Florent Hadergjonaj cross.
What this means
This result took Chelsea level on points with Man United in second-place, with an 11-point gap between them and Man City. It meant that Huddersfield stayed 12th in the league with five points separating them from the relegation zone.
Conte seemed frustrated in his post-match interview but he can be very pleased with the attacking endeavour he saw from his team as they looked as though they could have scored every time they went forward. The performances of Hazard, Willian and Pedro were extremely positive in the absence of their leading goal scorer.
A goal and two assists for Willian left a real statement and should mean he is included in the starting XI against Southampton at Stamford Bridge on Saturday.