Eden Hazard scored a brilliant solo goal as Chelsea tightened their grip at the top of the Premier League against rivals Arsenal.
Marcos Alonso scored his fourth goal of the season before Hazard saw off Arsenal’s defence in a run from the halfway line in a piece of individual brilliance, while Cesc Fabregas wrapped up the win for Antonio Conte’s men.
Chelsea manager Conte made just one change from Tuesday’s 1-1 draw with Liverpool, with Pedro replacing Willian on the right of a three-man attack.
Arsene Wenger, who served the third of a four-match touchline ban, made two changes from Tuesday’s disappointing 2-1 defeat at home to Watford. Hector Bellerín returning to right-back in place of Gabriel, while Theo Walcott replaced Olivier Giroud in attack.
Arsenal, who had only beaten Chelsea once in their last 10 meetings, started as though they were determined to change that particular statistic. Alex Iwobi’s 20-yard strike deflected wide of goal in only the second minute, much to the relief of Thibaut Courtois, who had been indecisive in clearing his lines a few moments earlier.
So it was a bit of a surprise when Chelsea took the lead in the 13th minute, with Marcos Alonso finishing off a move that saw Diego Costa’s header strike the crossbar, before falling for the Spaniard to head home.
The home side now had their tails up, and were looking the more dangerous of the two sides, and they squandered a wonderful opportunity to double their lead on the half-hour mark. Diego Costa surged towards Petr Cech’s goal, but ignored the support of his teammates and decided to go it alone before losing possession, much to the frustration of Pedro, who was unmarked.
After their early pressure, Arsenal were now very much on the back foot, but they did miss one gilt-edged chance to go into the half-time break all square. Gabriel, who had replaced Hector Bellerin after the latter suffered an injury in the build-up to the goal, rose to meet Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain’s chipped delivery, but could only guide his header at Courtois when it was perhaps easier to score.
Chelsea resumed control of the game after the break, and they got their rewards when Eden Hazard scored a wonderful solo goal to extend the hosts’ advantage in the 53rd minute. After winning the ball on the halfway line, the Belgian first saw off Francis Coquelin’s challenge before leaving Laurent Koscielny in a daze and finally slotting past Petr Cech to the delight of the home support.
Arsenal won 3-0 when the teams met at the Emirates in October, but the reverse scoreline was on the cards today with Chelsea camped in their opponents’ half and seeking to add to their two goals.
However, the visitors were still trying to get something out a game that was increasingly running away from them. Substitute Danny Welbeck’s goalbound header was pushed away by Courtois for a corner, which was headed agonisingly wide by Shkodran Mustafi from six yards out.
Those missed opportunities proved crucial as Chelsea put the game to bed five minutes from time. Former Arsenal midfielder Cesc Fabregas lobbed the ball over Cech just one minute after coming on for the excellent Hazard to round off what could be a defining day in the Premier League title race.
The game was well and truly over by now, but Arsenal did have a consolation when substitute Olivier Giroud nodded home Nacho Monreal’s cross in injury time, but today was all about Chelsea.
Chelsea: Courtois, Azpilicueta, Luiz, Cahill, Moses (Zouma 87), Kante, Matic, Alonso, Pedro (Willian 84), Costa, Hazard (Fabregas 84). Unused subs: Begovic, Zouma, Terry, Chalobah, Batshuayi.
Goals: Alonso 13, Hazard 53, Fabregas 85
Bookings: Matic 71
Arsenal: Cech, Bellerín (Gabriel 17), Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Coquelin (Giroud 65), Walcott (Welbeck 70), Ozil, Iwobi, Sanchez. Unused subs: Ospina, Gibbs, Reine-Adelaide, Maitland-Niles.
Goals: Giroud 90+1
Bookings: Mustafi 23
Man of the Match: Eden Hazard