Chelsea ease past West Ham thanks to Hazard and Costa
March 7, 2017 07:43 AM NPT
LONDON, March 7: Chelsea brushed aside London rivals West Ham United with a 2-1 away win that restored their 10-point lead at the top of the Premier League on Monday.
Eden Hazard gave them the lead following a swift 25th-minute counter-attack before Diego Costa bundled the ball home shortly after the break to put the Blues in control at London Stadium.
West Ham's Manuel Lanzini grabbed a consolation in added time, but the result was never in doubt.
Mid-table West Ham, who knocked Chelsea out of the League Cup this season when crowd trouble marred the night, offered little threat for most of the game as the west London side continued their surge towards the title.
Antonio Conte's team, who have won 21 of their 27 league matches this season, have 66 points, 10 ahead of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur. Manchester City can reduce the gap to eight if they beat Stoke City on Wednesday.
"I think we played a good game. We controlled the game. It's a pity for the goal we conceded at the end," Conte, who saluted Chelsea's fans at the end, said.
"But I'm pleased. We showed great concentration and commitment and will to win."
Chelsea were content to sit deep and draw West Ham's sting for the opening 20 minutes in which the home side enjoyed plenty of the ball without troubling goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Striker Andy Carroll got a bloody nose for his efforts as he made his presence felt in the box under a series of high crosses but Chelsea were unruffled.
When the opportunity presented itself, though, Chelsea were primed and launched a lethal counter-attack to take the lead.
Midfielder N'Golo Kante intercepted a stray Robert Snodgrass pass deep inside his own half and immediately released Hazard who exchanged passes with Pedro before rounding keeper Darren Randolph to slot home his 11th league goal of the season.
Chelsea took control after that and might have secured the points before halftime had they been a little more clinical.
Another breakaway ended with Victor Moses, who was on loan at West Ham last season when the Hammers finished 12 points above Chelsea, having a shot blocked by Aaron Cresswell before Randolph saved well from Pedro's close-range follow-up effort.
Lanzini wasted West Ham's best chance when he fired well over the bar from a central position.
Chelsea then went further ahead five minutes into the second half when Hazard's corner skimmed off the head of West Ham's Pedro Obiang and straight to Costa who could not miss.
West Ham roused themselves and Sofiane Feghouli had a shot cleared off the line before, seconds later, home defender Jose Fonte headed over with the goal at his mercy.
Costa looked certain to double his tally with a brilliant turn after an equally impressive pass by the electric Hazard but his shot was clawed away by Randolph.
The closing stages were played out before many empty seats as West Ham's fans drifted home while Chelsea's sang "We're going to win the league".
It was hard to disagree, although Lanzini did provide something for the hosts to cheer with a stoppage-time strike.