Sunday, October 23, 2016 8:03 pm
Chelsea Football Club recorded a third straight victory, and another clean sheet, with a devastating performance against Jose Mourinho’s Manchester United to move up to fourth in the Premier League table on goal difference.
Pedro opened the scoring inside the first minute and stand-in skipper Gary Cahill extended the Blues’ advantage midway through the first half at Stamford Bridge. Eden Hazard made it 3-0 after the break before N’Golo Kante completed the scoring with his first goal for the club, latching on to a Pedro flick and finishing marvellously.
It was a totally dominant Chelsea display and on the rare occasions Thibaut Courtois was called into action, he responded every time, making crucial first-half saves from Ander Herrera and Marcus Rashford and then denying Jesse Lingard and Zlatan Ibrahimovic after the break.
Conte opted against making any changes to the side which beat Leicester last weekend, with Cesar Azpilicueta, David Luiz and Cahill continuing at the heart of the defence. Pedro made his 50th appearance for the Blues while Diego Costa, who scored his seventh goal of the season last weekend, led the line. Former Chelsea midfielder Juan Mata started on the bench for the visitors.
Before kick-off, a special banner in memory of Matthew Harding was unfurled in the lower tier of the stand named after Chelsea’s former vice-chairman on the 20th anniversary of his passing.
The importance of starting big matches in a positive manner cannot be understated but few could have predicted how quickly the Blues would have flown out of the blocks, with the hosts taking the lead inside the opening 30 seconds.
As the ball was worked out to the left-hand side from kick-off, Marcos Alonso played a speculative ball forward into the United half and, sensing some hesitancy between Eric Bailly and Chris Smalling, Pedro raced in behind and got there first. David De Gea advanced off his line but Pedro took it beyond his compatriot with one touch and rolled the ball into the empty net, sending the home supporters delirious
It was the fastest Premier League goal of the season so far and the Spaniard’s of the campaign. What a time to get it!
United were quickly on the front foot as they looked to hit back. David Luiz did brilliantly to cut out a teasing Rashford delivery and from another cross by the same player Ibrahimovic headed over the bar.
Hazard then flashed a strike just past the post from a Pedro cross as the game, in its early stages, produced far more in terms of goalscoring opportunities than many had anticipated.
It was developing into an entertaining contest and with 20 minutes on the clock it was 2-0 to the Blues. Nigerian Victor Moses, Kante and Hazard linked up well to force a corner and when the Belgian’s delivery was flicked on at the near post, the ball bounced up off Herrera and landed at the feet of Cahill who made no mistake from close range.
Both Pedro and Hazard then saw dangerous crosses pushed away by De Gea while at the other end Courtious produced two brilliant saves in quick succession to deny Herrera and Rashford.
Diego Costa almost added a third for the Blues on the stroke of the break from an intelligent David Luiz free-kick but his shot was charged down by Bailly.
The visitors made one change at the break as Mata replaced the largely ineffective Marouane Fellaini, meaning Paul Pogba dropped into a deeper position alongside Herrera.
Bailly was fortunate to escape punishment when he cynically brought down Hazard as the Chelsea winger attempted to exchange passes with Diego Costa on the edge of the United box.
Hazard then went close as the Blues broke at pace but after being played in by an incisive Moses pass his effort was well blocked by the covering Chris Smalling.
Unsurprisingly United were beginning to see a lot of the ball and Courtois produced a fine save to thwart Lingard who went for goal from long range.
It was starting to look as though the next goal would be hugely significant and it went our way just after the hour mark.
Kante fed Matic deep inside the United half and the Serbian picked out the run of Hazard, who had drifted into the box, with a wonderful first-time pass and the winger did the rest, cutting inside Smalling and curling a brilliant strike into the far corner.
Nine minutes later, a wonderful afternoon took an even better turn when Kante scored his first Chelsea goal to make it 4-0, and it was a strike of the highest quality as the midfielder latched on to a sublime Pedro flick, dropped his shoulder to ease past Smalling and finished with all the composure of a clinical striker.
The fans celebrated wildly, Conte leapt into the arms of his coaching staff and every player ran to jump on Kante.
Nathaniel Chalobah was introduced for Pedro immediately after the goal and he was soon followed by Willian andMichy Batshuayi, who replaced Hazard and Diego Costa respectively.
Courtois made another brilliant stop to push away an Inrahimovic drive as the visitors desperately looked for a route back into the game but, in truth, the second-half goals by Hazard and Kante had all but killed the game off.