The incredible goal-scoring run by Chelsea has seen Diego Costa netting his 10th goal of the 2016/17 English Premier League season to give the blues six back-to-back wins.
Chelsea boss Antonio Conte has ensured his squad has scored 17 goals without conceding any, as they sit at the summit of the table. Their closes rivals, Liverpool and Manchester City are trailing them with one point. Soccer odds have favoured Costa of late as the vibrant striker has displayed hunger, discipline and desire to net more goals.
In Sunday’s match against Middlesbrough, Chelsea ensured they picked up maximum points and moved to the top of the Premier League despite their opponents’ impressive away draws against City and Arsenal. After the game, Conte joined Hazard, Costa and the invigorated Victor Moses on the pitch to celebrate the victory.
At the post-match conference, the Italian coach hailed his team for finding unique ways of winning against difficult teams. In fact, Chelsea’s win over Middlesbrough reflects Jose Mourinho’s first title conquest in 2005 when they beat Blackburn Rovers with a slim 1-0 away score line to lead the pack with an 11-point gap.
Everyone expects the Blues to clinch the EPL title this time round after going ahead of Pep Guardiola’s Manchester City after eating up their 8-point gap. The next two matches for Chelsea will be the decider, as they prepare to play against the unbeaten Tottenham at Stamford Bridge and an away encounter against Man City.
Arsenal and Liverpool humiliated them earlier and Conte will keep that in mind for the next matches. Their win over Middlesbrough was unique because Conte switched to a four-man defense instead of the typical three since their opponents refused to back down.
Chelsea wasted many chances and they even hit the woodwork, as goalkeeper Victor Valdes denied them any extra goal. Killing them off was not easy as they pressed on every time they possessed the ball, especially in the second half. Adama Traore skillful attacking play complemented Middlesbrough’s relentless efforts, as the team exhibited an amazing enthusiasm to score against Chelsea.
Stopping Hazard through all means was the main activity and the Belgian had to escape rough challenges in a bid to feed the ball to Costa and Pedro. With the delightful form he is in now, the opposition fans panicked every time he got the ball, a similar effect Sergio Aguero and Philippe Coutinho transmits. Hazard created many chances, along with Moses, who found a weak defensive link at Fabio da Silva.
Hazard made an ingenious reverse pass to Moses, who sliced it wide from six yards into Pedro’s path, but Valdes superbly tipped over the great shot. However, Hazards corner connected with Costa’s header and struck the back of Calum Chambers to spin freely into the air. Costa’s reaction was faster than any Middlesbrough defender, as he shot the ball at close range to beat Valdes efforts of saving it.
Two strong shots from Marcos Alonso were denied by the vigilant Valdes, but Davis Luiz later set up Costa with a swirling cross to head the ball back to Pedro. The Spaniard side-footed shot rattled the underside of the crossbar, but Moses was unable to finish it after Costa assisted him with the rebound.
Conte already spotted that Hazard’s tactics were limited and danger was looming with too many attacks towards Chelsea’s goal. Gaston Ramirez carelessly shot over and again Traore dribbled superbly past defenders only for the ball to cross Negredo’s hind path. Finally, the striker drew a save from Courtois with the only shot on target for Middlesbrough. With Chelsea already leading, they ran down the clock to register another clean sheet in 590 minutes of playing.
Everyone allied to Chelsea celebrated because, at such a point last season, the team had dropped to 16th place under Mourinho. However, Conte’s tactics this season has led them to the summit for the first time since May 2015 to make them one of the title favourites. However, the Italian coach expressed that despite his team doing well so far, he will have to wait until the year ends for him to know if they stand any chance of clinching the EPL title.