Chelsea defeated West Bromwich Albion to extend their unbeaten run and lead at the top of the Premier League on Saturday.
Diego Costa’s 11th goal of the season and Eden Hazard’s simple finish helped Jose Mourinho’s men move seven points above Southampton, who are not in action until Monday.
Cesc Fabregas was fit for a starting role and Willian’s inclusion from the onset came at the expense of the unfit Ramires.
Alan Irvine made four changes from the home defeat to Newcastle United, having Claudio Yacob, Chris Baird, Craig Gardner and Stephanie Sessegnon all in at the blast of the whistle.
Costa opened scoring on 11 minutes, when he beat Albion defenders to receive Oscar’s cross from the left, controlled the ball on his chest and thumped past Ben Forster from close range.
He almost grabbed his 12th goal of the season but watched his volley miss the target by some few inches after losing his marker.
Hazard took advantage of sloppy defending to double the ‘Blues’s’ lead in the 25th minute, collecting a quick corner by Cesc Fabregas before squeezing the ball beneath Foster via a deflection.
Alan Irvine’s men were shortened by one, few minutes later as Yacob received his marching order for a two-footed challenge on Costa.
Brazilian Oscar was next to be denied by Foster but Chelsea ended the first half on a high, much to the delight of the home supporters whose thunderous applause reverberated throughout Stamford Bridge as the players filed out into the dressing room.
The numerical advantage continued to tell on the visitors, with Nemanja Matic getting acres of space in the area but slammed his volley over the bar within three minutes of the restart.
Chelsea goalkeeper Thibault Courtois was more of a spectator on the pitch, watching from afar as his outfield colleagues dominated play. Mourinho’s men took their foot off the pedal after the hour mark, allowing some clinical goal-scoring chances beg for their mercy.
The hosts appeared to be looking to craft a goal out of the extraordinary while the simple chances proved evasive. Hazard wasted too much time to aim at goal, only to force Forster to a save at the near post.
West Brom were not allowed time on the ball, as Chelsea- though had chances to have scored six goals- closed out for a comfortable win.
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Newcastle 1-0 QPR
Stoke 1-2 Burnley
Manchester City 2-1 Swansea