Eden Hazard scored the only goal as Chelsea beat Bournemouth at the Dean Court stadium on Saturday.
A 51st-minute strike from the Belgian playmaker secured all three points for Antonio Conte’s side as they stay fourth in the Premier League table, moving just one point behind Tottenham. The scoreline does not reflect the stranglehold that Chelsea held over the home side and it could have easily been over before half-time.
Morata could have sealed win early
Alberto Morata was first to waste a golden opportunity. After finding himself unmarked ten yards out, the 25-year-old could only slide the ball under Asmir Begovic and wide of the goal.
The Spanish striker then had the ball in the back of the net, only to see the flag duly raised with Caesar Azplicuata straying offside in front of the Bournemouth goal. Morata then crafted another chance for himself, forcing a strong save; this time, Begovic got a left hand to a well-struck left-footed shot.
Bournemouth struggled to get a grip of the game as Chelsea dominated possession and limited chances for Eddie Howe’s team. After the break, it was the same story, but the Blues did need a little bit of luck to break the deadlock.
Hazard breaks the deadlock
Simon Francis’ missed interception gifted Hazard possession of a long ball and with time to set himself he drilled home at the near post from the left side of the box. Ex-Chelsea keeper Begovic will be disappointed at being beaten so easily to his right after holding firm for so long.
Conte’s men continued to press drawing more saves out of the 6’5” shot-stopper. Composure lacked at times, with potshots sailing over the bar, including Pedro’s unusual inaccuracy.
Fabregas could have added a second late on and most would admit it would have been deserved. He linked with Willian to open up a narrow angle from the left side of the goal, but he could only curl narrowly over the bar.
Tougher tests to come
The win puts Chelsea in fourth place, closing the gap on Spurs, who succumbed to a defeat at Old Trafford.
The performance was just important as the win, with their Italian manager under increasing pressure. The final score could have been heavier but the dominant way Chelsea went about business will give everyone at Stamford Bridge a confidence boost.
A trip to Roma on Tuesday evening in the Champions League leaves little respite for the squad. After a dramatic 3-3 draw last time out against the Italian side, it is sure to be another titanic battle at the start of a challenging month.
Chelsea’s next six games include five away trips and welcoming Manchester United to the Bridge.
Header image: “Eden Hazard / Эден Азар” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Aleksandr Osipov