Diego Costa was on target again as Chelsea beat 10-man West Bromwich Albion 2-0 to go seven points clear at the top of the Barclays Premier League.
Costa and Cesc Fabregas were named in the starting line-up after missing Spain's encounters with Belarus and Germany due to hamstring problems and played key roles as Chelsea's best ever start to a BPL season continued. Costa scored his 11th goal in 10 top-flight matches and Eden Hazard was also on target in the first half on Saturday as Jose Mourinho's side made it six league wins out of six at home this term.
West Brom had struggled to contain the Blues even before Claudio Yacob was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Costa, when he tried to win the ball from Costa by jumping in with two feet. Chelsea were in complete control throughout as they caused Alan Irvine's side all sorts of problems in an encounter that extended the home side's lead over second-placed Southampton, who play Aston Villa on Monday. Albion have now won just one of their last six league matches.
Yacob and Chris Baird made their first league starts of the season for the Baggies, while Craig Gardner and Stephane Sessegnon returned to the starting line-up. West Brom were caught napping when Chelsea took a short corner in the fifth minute, but Ben Foster produced a fine save with his feet to deny John Terry from close range after Hazard had picked the captain out.
Foster was unable to prevent the hosts taking the lead six minutes later, though, as Oscar picked out the unmarked Costa with a fine cross from the left and the striker showed great composure to control the ball on his chest and volley beyond the England goalkeeper. Chelsea were brimming with confidence and Foster made a stunning double save to keep out Oscar's long-range drive and the lively Costa following up.
West Brom were made to pay for poor defending after 25 minutes, when Fabregas rolled a corner to the unmarked Hazard and the Belgium winger was allowed too much time to take a touch and fire under Foster.
Things got worse for the visitors four minutes later, as Yacob was shown a straight red card for a challenge on Costa when he won the ball but in a manner that referee Lee Mason deemed to be dangerous. Branislav Ivanovic was unable to square the ball into Costa's path with the goal gaping after racing on to a precise Fabregas pass, then Foster did well to thwart efforts from Costa, Oscar and Hazard.
Nemanja Matic could have added a third just after half-time, but volleyed over from inside the six-yard box after he was also left unmarked. It was a case of damage limitation for Albion and Ivanovic could only volley wide of the far post as Chelsea attempted to enhance their goal difference, but the two first-half efforts proved sufficient as the hosts again showed why they are favourites to win the title.
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho: "It was comfortable but in the first half we played amazingly well. In the first half we have to be 3-0, 4-0, 5-0 up, but the quality of our football was there. I don't remember seeing many times football of that dimension.
"We made the pitch very wide, we created spaces in the central area and the result should be better than 2-0. We are playing well, we are getting the results that we deserve and I'm pleased that we did, especially after 15 days when I have no players to work with. But it's three important points."
"It's easy to see the difference in Diego Costa now, because now he can run, he can sprint, he can challenge for every duel."
West Brom manager Alan Irvine: "Obviously this is a really difficult place to come - they're a top team. We were looking to get off to a good start and obviously the first goal after 11 minutes made it hard. We certainly had to have a shape about us and have discipline, but to lose those first couple of goals was obviously against what we were trying to do.
"We had a gameplan which was made more difficult by the first goal which I think was offside. But the second one I was disappointed about - we pride ourselves on being organised at set-pieces and we weren't as organised as we should have been.
"I can see why he sent Claudio Yacob off. I don't think Claudio was trying to do any damage to Diego Costa, he was trying to win the ball, but the rules are such that if your feet leave the ground with both feet you're not in control. It was a big, big task from the moment Claudio was sent off."
|29 Nov 2014||v Sunderland (A)|
|03 Dec 2014||v Spurs (H)|
|06 Dec 2014||v Newcastle (A)|
|13 Dec 2014||v Hull (H)|
|22 Dec 2014||v Stoke (A)|
|26 Dec 2014||v West Ham (H)|