Eden Hazard’s lone goal gave Chelsea all important 3 away points
Eden Hazard inspired Chelsea to a narrow 1-0 win over Bournemouth on Saturday to close the gap to third-placed Tottenham in the Premier League to just one point.
Hazard netted his third goal in three games in all competitions in the 51st minute, latching onto Alvaro Morata’s pass before sending a low effort past ex-Chelsea goalkeeper Asmir Begovic at his near post for the winner.
Bournemouth, who had looked bright early on, lost Junior Stanislas and Benik Afobe to injury in the second period which allowed Chelsea to control proceedings and secure a victory that keeps the champions nine points behind leaders Manchester City, who defeated West Brom 3-2 earlier in the day.
With Tottenham losing to Manchester United, Chelsea moved to within one point of their London rivals in the table while Eddie Howe’s side remain in the relegation zone.
Antonio Conte had said on Friday that he would use the trip down to the south coast to catch up with former Chelsea players Nathan Ake and Begovic, both of whom left the Blues for the Cherries in the summer.
The pair had opted to depart the champions for regular first-team football, and both proved important early on at the Vitality Stadium as Ake’s sliding challenge prevented Davide Zappacosta from sending a dangerous cross to Morata while Begovic denied the Chelsea striker with a superb close-range stop in the 33rd minute.
The Bosnian’s save came after he was nearly punished for sending an attempted clearance straight to Eden Hazard, whose pass to Morata saw the Spaniard somehow contrive to drive the ball wide.
Chelsea quickly followed the chance up with another when Hazard’s cross from near the corner flag found David Luiz on the edge of the box.
The Brazilian drove a powerful effort toward goal, but Begovic blocked it – though he was then left breathing a sigh of relief when the ball rebounded out to Morata, whose subsequent effort was ruled out for offside against Cesar Azpilicueta, who had taken a touch in the build-up.
Conte’s side emerged after the break in a much more focused mood and took the lead just five minutes following the re-start when Morata, surrounded by several players in midfield, managed to send the ball to Hazard on the left.
Simon Francis failed to intercept the ball as it landed at Hazard’s feet and, after a fine run down the left flank the Belgian calmly drove the ball past Begovic at his near post to open the scoring for the champions.
Despite Chelsea appearing to be comfortable in the game, Bournemouth threatened when substitute Jordon Ibe went for goal but saw Thibaut Courtois guide his effort over the bar.
The Cherries came into this game having won their last two games in all competitions, but their attempt at making it three victories was handed a huge blow when Stanislas and then Afobe both suffered second-half injuries and saw their game cut short.
Stand-in captain Azpilicueta pulled out a superb block to deny Ibe on the line after Tiemoue Bakayoko had slipped in midfield to give away the ball.
Cesc Fabregas could have doubled Chelsea’s advantage but fired Hazard’s pass wide with eight minutes to play before Courtois made an added-time stop to deny Andrew Surman, yet the Blues held on to secure a win and keep their winning momentum going.