Chelsea widen EPL lead with 2-1 win over West Ham

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London, March 7 (IANS) Chelsea consolidated their 10-point lead at the top of the English Premier League (EPL) with a 2-1 victory in a London football derby against West Ham United at the London Stadium here.

Monday’s win for Chelsea was built on goals from forwards Eden Hazard (25th minute) and Diego Costa (50th) — latter’s 17th of the season — and smothering defence, reports Efe.

Manuel Lanzini scored West Ham’s solo goal in the 90+2 minute but Chelsea were hardly troubled to pocket three points that swelled their tally to 66 from 27 matches, 10 ahead of second-placed Tottenham Hotspur.

Playing in front of nearly 57,000 spectators at London’s Olympic Stadium, West Ham, who have struggled with inconsistency this season, got off to an encouraging start.

Despite dominating possession, the hosts posed no serious threat to the Chelsea and it was an offensive giveaway that set up the Blues’ first goal.

Chelsea’s N’Golo Kante intercepted a poor pass from Mark Noble and released a speeding Hazard, who worked an exchange with fellow forward Pedro Rodriguez before beating West Ham goalkeeper Darren Randolph to make it 1-0 for the visitors in the 26th minute.

The hosts’ only opportunity of the first half came with five minutes left until the break, when Lanzini’s shot sailed over the net, while only a fine stop by Randolph prevented Chelsea taking a 2-0 lead before half-time on a strike from Pedro.

The second goal arrived just five minutes after the restart, courtesy of Costa, who took advantage after a pair of West Ham players collided while trying to repel Cesc Fabregas’ corner kick.

Randolph made several more saves to keep his team in the game, at least nominally, but the best the 11th-place Hammers could do was a consolation goal by Lanzini in stoppage time.

After the game, Chelsea head coach Antonio Conte was pleased with the efforts of his boys. We didn’t concede many chances. Our central defenders played very well against the long ball for (andy) Carroll, we defended very well, good and compact,” Conte told Chelsea’s website.

“They tried to put a lot of pressure on us. Don’t forget West Ham vs Chelsea is a derby and there is great difficulty in these type of games. We were very good to manage the start of the game, then score the goal, and then control the game,” the Italian tactician added.

“We played good football, and we created chances to score other goals. It’s a pity to give away a second clean sheet at the end of the game, the second after Arsenal — we must work a bit on this aspect.”

West Ham chief coach Slaven Bilic said: “They deserved to win. Every attack they had after 2-0 looked dangerous from the touchline.

“They’re not going to become casual. They looked very serious. I can see them staying top with the quality they have and how solid and concentrated they are, and most of all how physical they are,” he added, according to Chelsea’s website.

–IANS

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