Chelsea held on to their seven-point gap to second-placed Tottenham on Wednesday when the league leaders beat Manchester City 2-1 courtesy of a brace from Eden Hazard.
With the injured Victor Moses watching from the stands, Antonio Conte had to draft in Kurt Zouma into the right side of his back three with Cesar Azpilicueta in the middle four. City started the brighter with Fabian Delph and Vincent Kompany surprise inclusions in the starting XI.
The first goal arrived after 10 minutes. Hazard picked up the ball in midfield and moved it quickly to Azpilicueta. The Spaniard passed on to his fellow Spaniard, Pedro, who then freed the defender down the right flank. Azpilicueta picked out Hazard, whose goal-bound shot took a little nick off Kompany to wrong foot Willy Caballero. It arguably was not a deserved goal, but the leaders would take it like that.
On 16 minutes, Delph saw an opening to shoot but hit straight at Thibaut Courtois.
The equaliser arrived on 25 minutes as Courtois passed straight to Silva whose shot the keeper saved only for Aguero to have a tap in.
The Blues retook the lead on 34 minutes as Cesc Fabregas threaded a pass through to Pedro on the left, who was floored by Fernandinho. Mike Dean immediately pointed to the spot. Hazard’s initial kick was saved by Caballero but the rebound fell into the Belgian’s path to double the advantage.
The first half ended with the ball at Hazard’s feet and City with over 60 per cent of the possession.
The second half started with Conte sending on Nemanja Matic in place of Zouma. But City started the better with Kompany guiding a header against the cross bar. Five minutes into the second stanza, Fernandinho found himself free in the six-yard box, but his volley was well wide.
City were in total command by the 60th minute with Chelsea playing on the counter. John Stones was the next City player to get a shot on target but his header from a corner was straight at Courtois. Pedro had a shot well saved as Chelsea got some attacking to do in the 67th minute.
Gary Cahill made a game-saving tackle on Aguero on 70 minutes as City pressed hard for an equaliser that their possession merited.
Hazard had a chance for a hat trick on 75 minutes as he started the move that opened up the City defence but he skied his effort. Raheem Sterling came on for Kevin De Bruyne. From a corner, Aguero shot wide from a difficult angle. Conte then sent on Willian for Fabregas as Chelsea needed his energy and speed to counter City’s midfield dominance. Nolito came on for Leroy Sane with five minutes on the clock.
City almost got the equalizer on 90 minutes. First, Aguero’s stretch was parried for a corner and then Stones had a chance from six yards, which he somehow prodded over the bar. Three anxious points and 18 more points needed mathematically to win the title with eight games left in the season.
Arsenal 3 – 0 West Ham United
Hull City 4 – 2 Middlesbrough
Southampton 3 – 1 Crystal Palace
Swansea City 1 – 3 Tottenham
Liverpool 2 – 2 Bournemouth
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