Hazard keeps Chelsea in touch

The Sunday Telegraph - Sport - - Football - By Sam Dean at the Vi­tal­ity Sta­dium

Amid all the in­con­sis­ten­cies and de­fen­sive fragili­ties, all the blus­ter and “bulls---” that has so in­fu­ri­ated An­to­nio Conte, here was an evening of wel­come so­lid­ity for Chelsea.

A well-earned vic­tory, a timely clean sheet and three points that keep them within touch­ing dis­tance – just about – of league lead­ers Manch­ester City will en­sure this is rated a job well done.

Eden Hazard was the match-win­ner, with a sec­ond-half strike after a se­ries of Bournemouth er­rors, but more pleas­ing for Conte will be his side’s first clean sheet for more than a month.

“For sure, we played a good game,” the Chelsea man­ager said. “For a big part of the game we played very well, with ma­tu­rity and good pos­ses­sion, and tried to cre­ate and find the right ball be­tween the lines. We cre­ated many chances to score.”

A mi­nor con­cern will be that only one of those chances was taken, but Conte will not have sleep­less nights if his de­fence re­mains as res­o­lute as this.

Bournemouth were lim­ited to a hand­ful of half-chances and noth­ing more, with man­ager Ed­die Howe ad­mit­ting that his side were “too pas­sive”. Their strug­gles con­tinue as they linger in a per­ilous 19th place in the league.

That will not change if they con­tinue to de­fend like they did for Hazard’s goal, which played out in three painful acts for the home side.

First, de­fender Si­mon Francis fluffed a clear­ance, al­low­ing Hazard in. Then Francis slipped when try­ing to make amends. And then, in a third and sorry fi­nal in­stal­ment, As­mir Be­govic was far too eas­ily beaten by Hazard’s near-post shot. To make mat­ters worse, it had all started with a Bournemouth goal-kick. “It was not just a goal­keep­ing er­ror,” said Howe. “It was a re­ally poor goal. They had a lot of the ball, we plugged gaps and threw our bod­ies in the way, but to then con­cede from our goal­kick, with a cou­ple of er­rors thrown in, was hugely dis­ap­point­ing.”

Chelsea should have taken the lead long be­fore then. Al­varo Mo­rata twice went close, while both Cesc Fabre­gas and Tiemoue Bakayoko wasted fur­ther op­por­tu­ni­ties be­fore the break.

“We could have been more clin­i­cal in the first half,” Conte said. “In this type of game, you must be able to kill the game. If you keep the re­sult in the bal­ance, you risk draw­ing in the end.”

For all Chelsea’s profli­gacy, there re­mained lit­tle prospect of Bournemouth equal­is­ing. Jor­don Ibe went clos­est with a long-range strike, while de­fender Steve Cook could ar­guably have done bet­ter with a stop­page-time ef­fort, but that was all the home side were able to muster.

On tar­get: Eden Hazard steps up to score the win­ner for An­to­nio Conte’s side

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.