Chelsea make it 12; Giroud saves Ar­se­nal; Ibra pow­ers Man U

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LON­DON: Pe­dro struck twice as Premier League lead­ers Chelsea regis­tered a club record 12th suc­ces­sive league win by beat­ing Bournemouth 3-0 at Stam­ford Bridge yes­ter­day. An­to­nio Conte’s side can edge ever closer to Ar­se­nal’s Premier League record of 14 con­sec­u­tive wins when they face Stoke at the Bridge on Satur­day. Vic­tory then would set up the pos­si­bil­ity of match­ing the record, set across the 2001-02 and 200203 sea­sons, when they travel to face Lon­don ri­vals Tot­ten­ham on Jan­uary 4.

On this form, few would bet against the Blues ex­tend­ing their cur­rent run af­ter they moved nine points clear of sec­ond placed Liver­pool, who host Stoke to­day. In con­trol long be­fore Pe­dro put them ahead with a su­perb in­di­vid­ual strike in the 24th minute, they ef­fec­tively killed off Bournemouth’s hopes with Eden Hazard’s 49th-minute penalty be­fore Pe­dro’s de­flected sec­ond wrapped up the win.

Diego Costa’s one-match ban meant Conte was forced to reshuf­fle his for­ward line for the first time since his team em­barked on their win­ning run, with Michy Bat­shuayi hop­ing to make his first league start since his ar­rival from Mar­seille.

Conte, though, had made it clear in the build-up to the game that the 23-year-old still has work to do as he at­tempts to ac­cli­ma­tise to life in the Premier League.

And Bat­shuayi once again found him­self on the bench as the Chelsea boss opted to stick with his es­tab­lished se­nior play­ers, mov­ing Hazard into the mid­dle with Wil­lian and Pe­dro op­er­at­ing ei­ther side of the Bel­gium in­ter­na­tional.

Conte also made an en­forced change in mid­field with Cesc Fabre­gas slot­ting in along­side Ne­manja Matic in place of the sus­pended N’Golo Kante.

Chelsea’s form has been such, how­ever, that the changes had lit­tle ef­fect on Conte’s side, who once again demon­strated the con­fi­dence that comes with win­ning matches.

Last De­cem­ber, Bournemouth’s win at Stam­ford Bridge helped has­ten the de­par­ture of for­mer Blues man­ager Jose Mour­inho.

This time around there seemed lit­tle chance of a re­peat up­set with Ed­die Howe’s side hav­ing won just one of eight away games.

And an early move when Fabre­gas al­most played in Pe­dro be­hind the vis­i­tors’ de­fence sug­gested this would be a test­ing af­ter­noon for the Cher­ries.

OUT­STAND­ING

Chelsea de­fender Ce­sar Azpilicueta was forced to re­act quickly to pre­vent Adam Smith’s low cross reach­ing Josh King who was po­si­tioned in space in front of the home goal.

But that was a fleet­ing mo­ment of con­cern for Conte’s side be­fore Pe­dro pro­duced a mo­ment of out­stand­ing in­di­vid­ual skill to put the lead­ers on course for vic­tory with the 24th-minute open­ing goal.

Hazard started the move, run­ning in­ci­sively to­wards the heart of the Bournemouth de­fence be­fore play­ing the ball into the feet of Fabre­gas, who found his Span­ish in­ter­na­tional team-mate Pe­dro with a short pass.

The for­mer Barcelona player did well to cre­ate space on the edge of the box be­fore chip­ping the ball over keeper Ar­tur Boruc and into the top cor­ner of the Bournemouth goal.

Howe’s side re­sponded pos­i­tively, and in par­tic­u­lar Jack Wil­shere who pro­duced a weav­ing run into the home box be­fore test­ing keeper Thibaut Cour­tois with a low shot. Then mo­ments later the on-loan Ar­se­nal mid­fielder latched onto a poor clear­ing header only to see his vol­ley de­flected wide.

That op­por­tu­nity pro­voked an an­gry re­ac­tion from Conte who was frus­trated at his side’s fail­ure to or­gan­ise them­selves at the pre­ced­ing free-kick.

Hazard had been a con­stant threat and the for­ward’s pow­er­ful run­ning again un­set­tled the vis­it­ing de­fence, draw­ing the foul from skipper Si­mon Fran­cis that en­sured the game was ef­fec­tively over just four min­utes af­ter the restart.

Fran­cis’ mist­imed chal­lenge sent Hazard sprawl­ing in­side the penalty area and the Bel­gian re­cov­ered to con­vert the re­sult­ing penalty. Pe­dro’s sec­ond goal ar­rived deep in stop­page time to seal an­other em­phatic vic­tory. — AFP

LON­DON: Chelsea’s Span­ish mid­fielder Pe­dro (CR) slides into Bournemouth’s Pol­ish goal­keeper Ar­tur Boruc (L) dur­ing the English Premier League foot­ball match be­tween Chelsea and Bournemouth at Stam­ford Bridge in Lon­don yes­ter­day. — AFP

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