Chelsea set a new club record of 12 straight Premier League wins and extended their lead at the top of the table with a 3-0 victory over Bournemouth at Stamford Bridge on Monday.
Two goals from Pedro Rodriguez and another Eden Hazard sealed the points as the Blues showed no signs of missing top scorer Diego Costa, who missed the match through suspension along with midfielder N’Golo Kante.
Pedro opened the scoring midway through the first half before Hazard scored his 50th Premier League goal for Chelsea from the penalty spot shortly after half-time. Pedro then added another goal in injury time, via a heavy deflection, to put the gloss on the victory.
The win moves Antonio Conte’s side nine points clear of second-placed Liverpool, who play Stoke City at Anfield on Tuesday, while Manchester City can go within seven points of the leaders with a win at Hull City later on Boxing Day.
Chelsea are now two wins short of matching the longest winning streak in Premier League history, set by Arsenal across the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons.
The Blues host Stoke on New Year’s Eve and then travel to London rivals Tottenham Hotspur four days later for what could be their chance to equal Arsenal’s win record. If they succeed, they will travel to defending champions Leicester City on Jan. 14 looking set a new mark of 15 straight league wins.
Bournemouth won this fixture 12 months ago in the final weeks of Jose Mourinho’s second spell, when even the Stamford Bridge faithful turned on Hazard. The Belgium playmaker, Chelsea’s star in the 2014-15 title-winning season, has regained the affection of the home support.
Elusive out of possession and equally evasive on the ball, Hazard showed why Conte had opted against a straight swap for Costa, which left Michy Batshuayi still waiting for a first league start.
Costa will come back in against Stoke, especially as Pedro received a fifth yellow card of the season to prompt a suspension. But Hazard showed Chelsea can cope without the striker.
After taking time to find their shape, Hazard set to work and found Cesc Fabregas, in for Kante. Fabregas in turn fed Pedro, who curled in left footed from the edge of the area.
The former Barcelona winger, in for Costa, was the able deputy once more. It was Pedro who filled the void created by Willian’s compassionate leave earlier in the season, scoring in wins over Manchester United, Everton and Tottenham.
Jack Wilshere was a lively presence for the visitors and took on Gary Cahill in the Chelsea box before forcing Thibaut Courtois into a smart save. The on-loan Arsenal midfielder next had a volley blocked and Adam Smith then ran into Nemanja Matic, seeing a forlorn penalty appeal dismissed.
Hazard’s confidence level, meanwhile, was demonstrated by a Rabona shot which Artur Boruc tipped over. Whether Hazard knew Fabregas had already conceded a foul before the audacious attempt was unclear.
Chelsea’s second came four minutes into the second half when Simon Francis, who had struggled to get near Hazard in the previous 49 minutes, stuck out a leg and tripped the playmaker in the Bournemouth box. Hazard sent Boruc the wrong way to bring up his half-century of league goals in England.
Next Hazard shot wide across goal with Pedro lurking, Willian forced Boruc to save smartly and Victor Moses shot wide. Hazard was enjoying himself so much he even flicked the ball over a prone Fabregas at one point.
Pedro shot wide and Hazard fired against Dan Gosling, but it was not all one way as Courtois saved from substitute Benik Afobe.
Conte called for Courtois to kick the ball out so he could take off Hazard — to give him a rousing reception — and send on Batshuayi. But he had to wait as Courtois failed to find touch and Pedro netted a deflected goal on the break. Only the restart remained, but Conte got his wish and Hazard the reception he deserved.