5th of February 2017

Blues extend gap at the top after Derby win (3-1)

The Blues produced a brilliant display to move 12 points clear of Arsenal after sweeping Arsene Wenger's team aside at Stamford Bridge. Marcos Alonso's first-half header, and strikes after the break by Eden Hazard and substitute Cesc Fabregas capped a wonderful afternoon for Antonio Conte's side, who were the better team throughout and fully deserved the victory. Pedro was back to the starting eleven playing 82 minutes before Willian substitution.

Alonso reacted quickest to head home and give us the lead after Diego Costa's header had struck the bar and, in truth, Arsenal were lucky we didn't add to our lead before half-time, although Thibaut Courtois did produce a fine save to deny Gabriel.

Hazard, who was outstanding throughout, extended our advantage with a stunning individual goal early in the second half and Fabregas capped a miserable day for the north Londoners by scoring against his former club with his first touch.

Despite Olivier Giroud's consolation, Conte will have been delighted with the performance of his side, who end a tough week of fixtures in a fantastic position.

There was just one change to the side which drew at Liverpool on Tuesday as Pedro came into the starting 11 and Willian dropped down to the bench. The Spaniard was making his 50th Premier League appearance.

The midfield pairing of N’Golo Kante and Nemanja Matic, so impressive at Liverpool, remained in place and Diego Costa led the line once again.

Blues legend Petr Cech started in goal for Arsenal and received a wonderful ovation from the home supporters. Hector Bellerin, a midweek substitute, was restored to the Gunners’ starting line-up at right-back and there was a start in central midfield for Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain.

The visitors threatened inside the opening couple of minutes when Alex Iwobi’s effort took a deflection and rolled inches past the post. Kante then robbed Alexis Sanchez to spark a quick Chelsea break but Pedro’s cross struck Bellerin before going out for a corner which came to nothing.

Gary Cahill headed straight into the ground from a Pedro free-kick after Victor Moses had been brought down, but from our next attack we took the lead.

The ball was worked out to Pedro on the right-hand side and his cross was a brilliant one. Diego Costa did well to get in front of Laurent Koscielny and as his header came back off the bar Marcos Alonso reacted quickest and nodded the ball into the back of the net.

Having scored twice in our recent win at Leicester Alonso had delivered at an important time once again.

Arsenal were forced into an early change after Bellerin was injured, the right-back going off to be replaced by Gabriel, and Diego Costa went close to extending our lead but fired an angled drive into the side-netting.

Eden Hazard was becoming more of a threat as the game progressed and after racing onto a Courtois throw he switched it inside to Diego Costa, but with Pedro calling for the ball the striker opted to go alone and was dispossessed.

The Blues were playing some lovely one-touch football and Pedro forced Cech into a save from an Alonso cross after the wing-back had been picked out by Matic.

Defensively, we had looked pretty solid for much of the half but Courtois was called into action eight minutes before the break when he produced a brilliant save to palm alway Gabriel’s close-range header. The big Belgian then thwarted Mesut Ozil, a peripheral figure, in added time low down to his left.

Kante had picked up where he left off against Liverpool, breaking up attacks regularly and making crucial interceptions, and it was from another that we almost scored a second soon after the break. The Frenchman won the ball deep in the Arsenal half and slipped in Diego Costa, but Cech was equal to the strike.

Moments later, however, it was 2-0 and there was nothing Arsenal could do about it as Hazard scored a stunning solo goal.

Picking the ball up on the halfway line he eased away from Koscielny before displaying wonderful strength to leave Coquelin on the deck. Hazard still had plenty to do, but as he advanced towards goal he twisted Koscielny one way and then another before lifting the ball over Cech into the back of the net.

It really was a goal of the highest quality and one worthy of Hazard’s display up until that point.

Giroud replaced Coquelin for Arsenal just after the hour, with the substitute moving up front and Sanchez switching to the left-hand side. That change was quickly followed by another as Danny Welbeck came on for Theo Walcott.

Welbeck’s first involvement almost produced a goal but his glancing header, which looked destined for the bottom corner, was expertly tipped away by Courtois. From the resulting corner Mustafi then headed wide when he should have done better.

With eight minutes remaining Willian and Cesc Fabregas were introduced for Pedro and Hazard, who had both ran themselves into the ground and received a brilliant reception from the home fans as they departed.

Fabregas’s impact was immediate as he made it 3-0 with his first touch, capitalising on a poor kick by Cech and lifting the ball over the keeper into an empty net.

Diego Costa passed up a wonderful opportunity to add a fourth late on and Arsenal went straight up the other end and pulled one back through Giroud, who headed home Monreal's cross.

The damage, though, had already been done.

Arsenal's poor record at the Bridge continues.

Chelsea march on.

 

- Match stats:

Chelsea (3-4-3): Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses ( Zouma 86), Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro (Willian 82), Diego Costa, Hazard ( Fabregas 82).
Unused subs: Begovic, Terry , Chalobah, Batshuayi.
Scorers Alonso 12, Hazard 52, Fabregas 85
Booked Matic 69

Arsenal (4-2-3-1): Cech; Bellerin (Gabriel 16), Mustafi, Koscielny (c), Monreal; Coquelin (Giroud 64), Oxlade-Chamberlain; Walcott, Ozil, Iwobi; Sanchez.
Unused subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Adelaide, Niles
Scorer Giroud 90
Booked Mustafi 22

Referee Martin Atkinson
Crowd 41,490
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- Match report by chelseafc.com / Foto: Darren Walsh


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