The Premier League's last act of the day fell to Antonio Conte’s team and once more the last word goes to them too, a side capable of absorbing the pressure of the title race and winning games, although there are times when you wonder if they feel any pressure at all.
Conte said afterwards that it was not easy playing after Tottenham Hotspur had demolished Watford to cut Chelsea’s lead at the top to four points but that he enjoyed the pressure all the same, and expected his own players to cope with it. The league leaders did that with a victory that restores their lead over Spurs in second place to seven points and means that they require five wins to wrap up the title.
Conte does not bother too much with the opposition but after the game he was at pains to point out just how far his team had come in the space of eight months. This was, he reminded everyone, a team that finished 10th last year and that Chelsea’s progress since last summer had far outstripped that of Spurs.
“Don't forget that last season Tottenham fought for the title until the end. That means they are a really good team. Last season Chelsea were 10th and now we are top of the table. I think Tottenham had two or three new players [in the summer] and are stronger than last season. It's important to understand this. It's important to compare teams the right way.”
The Italian was trying to fight back against the notion that Chelsea are exactly where Chelsea should be, simply because they have won four titles in the last 12 years. It might also have been a subtle way of reminding everyone that it has been Conte who has effected the change in results.
One week on from the shock of defeat at home to Crystal Palace, Conte’s team have taken six points from two games and re-established themselves as the side to catch. As for the pressure, Conte says that he thrives on it. “I like the pressure, I live off pressure. I don't see pressure, I put pressure [on]. I think pressure gives you the best of yourself.”
For periods this was a good Bournemouth performance, especially in the latter stages of the first half when Josh King scored for the home side and they looked like they could perhaps get back into the game. But there is a rhythm to the way that Chelsea take hold of a match and this one was no different.
Adam Smith was unfortunate with a first-half own goal, before Eden Hazard bewitched Artur Boruc on the counter-attack for the second. Eventually it was the quality which told, and Marcos Alonso’s left-footed free-kick on 68 minutes sealed the result for Chelsea. It was an unsaveable strike and proof that, when the pressure is on, Conte has players who can deliver.
The travelling support sang “Tottenham Hotspur, we’re waiting for you” which may have been a nod to the FA Cup semi-final later this month. Going behind to this Chelsea team is a curse on any opponent, all of whom find themselves trying to break down a midfield that moves as one piece, suffocating the ambitions of those up against it.
It was a tough afternoon for Bournemouth who were good at times, none more than King, the former Manchester United academy boy, who looked to be more than a match even for the international defenders in Chelsea’s side.
Eddie Howe started Jack Wilshere for the second game in a row for the first time since February and there was a mixed performance from the man from Arsenal. He can still pick out a pass beautifully as he did once in the first half to Ryan Fraser from the very deep-lying position that he took up. At other times he seemed strangely immobile and was caught in possession, most critically for the second Chelsea goal
Bournemouth are now three games without a win and in the fast-changing situation in the bottom-half of the Premier League, Howe dismissed the notion that his team had no reason to fear relegation.
“Believe me, motivating the players is no problem at all. We are motivated to get as many points as we can and guard against any problems later on.”
The first Chelsea goal was a strange affair, a huge slice by Diego Costa whose left-footed shot was going well wide when it clipped the head of Adam Smith, sliding in for the block, and crept inside Boruc’s right post.
Shortly after that, Wilshere was dispossessed in midfield and the ball went from Pedro to N’Golo Kante whose pass over the top and into the left channel set Hazard free to run at goal. The problem for any goalkeeper trying to second guess a player as majestically adept with the ball on either foot as Hazard is exactly what side he is going to attempt to pass you on.
Boruc bought Hazard’s first offering, a perfectly plausible shape-up to strike it with his right, before the winger switched the ball onto his left and left the Bournemouth goalkeeper wondering where he had gone. The ball was rolled into the net by Hazard and Chelsea looked well set to win.
Benik Afobe hit the post when he took a Charlie Daniels left-wing cross first time and then three minutes before the break, the home team scored. It was a fine counter-attack. From Danny Pugh to Afobe, the ball went right to King who hit his shot first time. With the benefit of a flick off David Luiz, who was in the wrong position to make a proper tackle, the ball beat Thibaut Courtois past his left hand.
The free-kick from which Alonso scored was awarded for a very bad tackle by Steve Cook on Costa and in a more highly-charged game the Bournemouth man might have found himself dismissed.
The position of the kick was ideal for Alonso’s left foot and he swept it over the wall and into the top-left corner of the Bournemouth goal, with Boruc once again helpless to do anything about it. That, from Bournemouth’s point of view, was the story of their afternoon.
Time on ball (at full time)
Average touch positions (full time)
And that's it! Chelsea march towards that Premier League title. Organised, efficient, quick on the counter, skillful, powerful - they have it all and get the job done.
Mousset! Really close to pulling it back to 3-2! Just as I say how well Chelsea have defended. Are you trying to make me look like a fool?! Dastardly.
Pedro is off for Willian. He's had an odd season, perhaps a lot of it down to the family bereavement he suffered at the start of it, because footballers are actually people.
Chelsea have defended superbly today.
Eden Hazard is replaced by Fabregas with 83 minutes played. The Belgian has been outstanding today. #BOUCHE
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 8, 2017
I'd go along with that. The way he duped Boruc with a clever scoop turn to score was the highlight.
Fabregas is getting ready to come on, Chelsea are stretching the pitch, pulling Bournemouth's narrow defence from side to side with their passing and pressing high. Bournemouth just can't get out!
Costa is lucky to win a free-kick that isn't after losing the ball by the Chelsea penalty area. The ball is played forward quickly, Moses comes in from the right and shoots... it's saved! Hazard slips while trying to dart on to the loose ball.
— AFC Bournemouth �� (@afcbournemouth) April 8, 2017
21 year old Mousset is on. The game is pretty much dead and this is a great time to test youngsters, let their enthusiasm and anonymity catch out a team trying to suffocate the play.
He's already make an impact, holding off a couple of challenges in the Chelsea box and encouraging a little bit of panic from the defence.
Time on ball (60 - 75 min)
Pedro is booked for what looks like a fairly innocuous challenge but one that Arter does not enjoy. He goes flying to ground as Pedro hunts him down at speed.
It should be four. Hazard picks out Alonso with a curling early cross and the Spaniard heads way over the bar. The pass deserved more!
The two-goal cushion has been restored. Chelsea lead 1-3 thanks to a goal from Marcos Alonso.
Perfect. Artur Boruc gives up even considering diving before the ball is near his goal - it's a fantastic free-kick from Alonso.
McManaman finds a poorly timed slide tackle particularly amusing as it sends Costa flying to the ground while trying to control the ball just outside the area. Luiz and Alonso are sizing this one up... it's a good position to shoot from...
Cahill tries to go round Fraser but the Aberdonian is surprisingly strong and holds him off before being fouled.
Daniels tries a shot from distance again but it's blocked. Running out of ideas.
Pedro is played in on the left of the penalty area, jinks past one challenge and is tackled on the second. Bournemouth are looking for the equaliser here, Chelsea just trying to hit them on the counter-attack.
Time on ball (45 - 60 min)
Oooooh that's close. A free-kick routine nearly gives a chance to score as it is taken short, blasted from distance by Francis and a striker slides in to try and set up Afobe for a tap in. The forwards were offside and the first shot wasn't quite caught well enough though.
Fraser switches back to the right again. Pedro tackles Pugh, Kante smashes the ball straight off Costa's face. I bet that one hurt.
Fraser switches wings and makes an instant impact.
And nearly gets in for a shot again soon after. Smith might have hurt himself with that attempted lunge on Alonso.
Bournemouth are clearly trying to wind up Costa by leaving a little on him with every challenge. Kante wins the ball back superbly in the centre of the pitch as Bournemouth threaten to counter. The ball is nearly run out of play but Pedro works hard to keep it in, finds Hazard and Hazard powers a cross into the box. Costa inches away from connecting with a header.
Smith goes in with a really aggressive tackle by the touchline - if he gets Alonso there, it's not going to end well. Alonso rides the challenge and has the entire left wing to run into, gets to the box and lifts a pass into the six yard area for Costa... but Boruc grabs it.
The sun still hasn't gone down, giving the BT Sport cameraman and various still photographers the most difficult job of the day. Ryan Fraser has been causing Marcos Alonso problems of another kind on that left wing. He's very quick.
And we're back. That's a photo of Josh King kicking the football.
Decent recovery from Bournemouth and it's a result of Chelsea stepping down a gear. They need to get back up to top speed to ensure they come out of this with the win.
Time on ball (first half)
Average touch positions (half time)
45 mins +2
Most Premier League goals in 2017:
1️⃣ JOSHUA KING - 11
2️⃣ Romelu Lukaku - 11
3️⃣ Harry Kane - 11
4️⃣ Dele Alli - 10
5️⃣ Sergio Agüero - 6
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) April 8, 2017
And the momentum has shifted all of a sudden! King is played in down the right again and spots Afobe at the back post, sending a teasing cross into the area. Azpilicueta is alert and heads away before it is turned into a goal... but Courtois mops up from the resulting throw in.
Bournemouth are right back in it now - it's 1-2, thanks to a goal from Joshua King.
That's a big goal and a big deflection off David Luiz! King smashes a shot from a tight angle but the redirection taken off Luiz sends it crashing into the top corner beyond Courtois.
Moses is everywhere! He's begun moving inside into the half space (NERD ALERT), Hazard switches to the right, Pedro lets the ball go through him with a clever flick/dummy and Hazard's dinked cross is almost turned into a third goal.
And now Arter is booked for a cynical hack on Costa by the touchline at the halfway line. That's a bit of a silly one.
A Chelsea corner routine ends as Pedro's shot does find the back of the net.
He does well to keep the shot low but doesn't get enough direction on it and it's straight down the middle, easy to save.
Chelsea are dangerous on the counter-attack. Wilshere gets caught on the ball in the centre circle by Kante, Pedro bursts forward, Costa runs off the shoulder of the last man and shoots from just inside the box but it's deflected out for a corner. Costa hasn't looked quite himself for a few weeks now.
Time on ball (15 - 30 min)
AFOBE OFF THE POST! Great run from the striker! He hits a first time volley on the sidefoot after a fantastic delivery from Daniels, but it cannons off the post, hits Courtois and bounces away! So close.
That's a photo of Costa's goal (that will definitely be awarded as an own goal). As you can see, he's aiming right, with his left foot. The ball goes in off the post on the left.
Costa gets another chance to shoot but is scruffy again and the ball goes wide.
Chelsea sitting back now, letting Bournemouth try and pick their way through them but that's a very tall order and although the passing is nice, nothing's coming so far. Wilshere tries to make it happen and is bundled over by Luiz just outside the box. Decent chance to shoot here, if not a little too close to the goal, Clive.
Eden Hazard adds a second for Chelsea - it's now 0-2!
Bournemouth's line is too high, too wide and N'Golo Kante's pass perfectly placed to match Hazard's run. That's a brilliant goal.
It's 1-0 and it's Diego Costa, who pulls off a smart turn from Moses' pass to leave a defender on his back and then completely mis-hits his shot. The ball looks like it's flying wide but takes a deflection off Smith and wrong foots Boruc.
If that goal isn't awarded to Smith, it will be Costa's 50th in the Premier League.
Hazard is taken down with a strong slide challenge from Harry Arter. Steve McManaman seems to think there's nothing wrong with the tackle, but clearly there is and the referee awards a free-kick.
Chelsea move forward, Moses gets on the ball and cuts onto his left foot to shoot but it's blocked and goes out for a throw. Bournemouth win it back, Wilshere brings the ball out a few yards and spots Fraser breaking away ahead, threads a ball through and Fraser shanks his effort well wide.
Time on ball (0 - 15 min)
I really wish BT Sport would stop calling it "Jake and the boys" when trying to make me watch their coverage. I'm sure they're cracking lads but the banter levels sound dangerously high when grown adults are referred to as boys.
This giant bright ball of light in the sky is making it ever so slightly more difficult than usual to follow the game when the football on the ground is near the Bournemouth goal. The cameraman is having to adjust brightness all over the shop and it looks like that half of the pitch is being filmed through a ghost.
Hazard beats the offside trap but just can't get enough on a long ball over the top to him.
Chelsea threaten for the first time
Following the earlier Bournemouth effort, Chelsea register their first attempt at goal.
Moses is being chased back towards his own goal and loses balance as he's given a little shove. He tries his best to get back to his feet but goes down and grabs the ball with his hands to stop the Bournemouth player chasing him from getting away. It's a free-kick for the home side and a booking for Moses.
Chelsea are passing the ball around at the back then launch a long one forward, now they're passing it around the final third. Bournemouth are sitting back and letting them do exactly this.
Early action as Courtois has to tip the ball over the bar after Luiz has a clearance closed down!
It's soccer time!
Here come the players
They're out on the pitch now, shaking hands and getting ready to sing the official anthem of football:
A bit of sun yoga
I don't know if that's a thing but here's David Luiz warming up in the sun. 15 minutes to go!
What a lovely day
It looks like somewhere abroad. This can't be England.
There's some sort of sport involving horses going on elsewhere, but this evening's football action is in neigh danger of being exciting. Chelsea have been excellent away from home all season and should see off the threat Bournemouth pose, even if Eddie Howe's side has improved recently. Diego Costa has had a real dip in form the last few games and could do with kicking on again.
Boruc, Smith, Francis, Cook, Daniels, Fraser, Arter, Wilshere, Pugh, King, Afobe
— AFC Bournemouth �� (@afcbournemouth) April 8, 2017
Moses is back in for Chelsea! Matic comes back in for Fabregas too.
Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard
Chelsea team v Bournemouth: Courtois; Azpilicueta, David Luiz, Cahill (c); Moses, Kante, Matic, Alonso; Pedro, Diego Costa, Hazard. #BOUCHE
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) April 8, 2017