Chelsea continued their march to the Premier League title by restoring their seven-point lead at the top of the table with a 3-1 win at Bournemouth on Saturday.
Tottenham beat Watford 4-0 earlier in the day to put pressure on the leaders, but Chelsea responded in the late kick-off by scoring twice in three first-half minutes to set up their third successive away league victory.
Adam Smith was unfortunate to deflect Diego Costa’s shot into his own net after 17 minutes and Chelsea capitalised on that slice of luck with a quickfire second strike.
N’Golo Kante sent Eden Hazard through with a superb crossfield pass and the Belgian winger raced clear to score his 14th Premier League goal of the season.
Chelsea seemed to be cruising, but shortly before half-time the in-form forward Joshua King grabbed one back with a deflected drive, and the leaders endured nervous moments before a brilliant Marcos Alonso free-kick settled the match.
Defeat leaves Eddie Howe’s men 15th in the Premier League, seven points above the relegation zone, while Antonio Conte’s men are closing in on the title in the Italian’s first season in charge.
Thibaut Courtois had to make an important save in the first minute after David Luiz inadvertently turned a Ryan Fraser cross towards his own goal and Hazard headed Cesar Azpilicueta’s cross wide in a lively opening at a sun-drenched Vitality Stadium.
Jack Wilshere’s throughball sent Fraser one on one with Luiz after 15 minutes, but the winger wasted the chance by shooting wide and Chelsea took full advantage by scoring a scrappy opening goal moments later.
A searching diagonal ball found Victor Moses and he fed Costa in the box, the striker turning and firing into Artur Boruc’s bottom-right corner via a sizeable deflection off Smith’s head.
Hazard had scored three goals in three previous appearances against Bournemouth and, when a long Kante ball sent him through on goal, he continued the streak by rounding Boruc to slot home from a tight angle.
Bournemouth were inches away from getting back into the game after 27 minutes when Benik Afobe met a left-wing Charlie Daniels cross on the volley, his effort striking the inside of the post.
Costa’s shot deflected narrowly wide and Pedro tested Boruc from the resulting corner, then Moses headed Hazard’s cross off-target as chances continued to flow for the visitors.
Bournemouth cut the deficit three minutes before half-time, with King scoring his 10th goal in his last 11 Premier League games, although his 20-yard drive needed a deflection off Luiz to beat Courtois.
10 – Only Romelu Lukaku (11) and Harry Kane (11) have scored more PL goals in 2017 than Josh King (10 – level with Dele Alli). Prominence.
— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) April 8, 2017
Fraser fired narrowly wide four minutes after the interval as Bournemouth continued to threaten, then Costa failed to turn Alonso’s low cross home as he sought his 50th Premier League goal.
Bournemouth scored a late equaliser to draw 2-2 at Liverpool on Wednesday, but there was to be no repeat as Chelsea made the points safe with 67 minutes played.
Alonso bent a perfect free-kick into Boruc’s top-left corner to score his fifth league goal of the season and Boruc denied Moses and Costa efforts to keep the scoreline respectable, as Conte’s men moved a step closer to Premier League glory.
Key Opta stats
- Bournemouth have conceded 3+ goals in 11 Premier League games this season; only Swansea have done so more often (13).
- Chelsea have conceded in nine consecutive Premier League games in a single season for the first time since the 2011-12 season (nine games between Aug-Oct 2011).
- Eden Hazard has scored four times in his last three Premier League appearances against Bournemouth.
- Hazard’s haul of 14 Premier League goals this season is his joint-best-ever return in a season in the competition (also 14 in 13/14 and 14/15).
- N’Golo Kanté has provided his first ever Premier League assist for Chelsea in what is his 30th appearance.
- Josh King has scored 10 goals in his last 11 Premier League appearances, after netting just three in the 20 before that this season.
- King has netted eight goals v teams currently in the Premier League top 10, the most of any player playing in a team outside the top-half.
- Indeed, only Romelu Lukaku (11) and Harry Kane (11) have scored more Premier League goals in 2017 than Josh King (10 – level with Dele Alli).
- Marcos Alonso has netted five PL goals this season. Among defenders, only James Milner (7) and Gareth McAuley (6) have more.
- Chelsea have scored the most (11) while Bournemouth have conceded the most (9) Premier League goals from outside the box this season.