Eden Hazard scored a second-half winner as Chelsea earned a deserved 1-0 away win over Bournemouth to move back within nine points of Premier League leaders Manchester City.
In the build-up to the game, manager Antonio Conte lashed out at “b******t” reports which claimed the players were unhappy with his training methods and linked Carlo Ancelotti to his job.
And there was further pressure on Chelsea after wins for City, Manchester United, Arsenal and Liverpool earlier on Saturday, but the champions responded with an assured display.
The visitors dominated the first half but could not find a breakthrough as Alvaro Morata missed a golden chance before having a goal controversially ruled out for offside.
However, Hazard did strike early in the second half, firing in his fifth Premier League goal in four matches against Bournemouth by beating Asmir Begovic at his near post.
Chelsea, who rallied to beat Watford with a thrilling late comeback last week, have now won two straight top-flight games after only tasting victory in one of their previous four.
The win means the Blues move back up to fourth in the Premier League, four points behind United in second and one adrift of third-placed Tottenham, who lost at Old Trafford.
Bournemouth had beaten Stoke City in their last league outing, but this defeat – in which they failed to produce a shot on target until second-half stoppage time – leaves Eddie Howe’s side 19th in the table with only seven points and six goals to show from their first 10 games.
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Pedro, a scorer against Watford, fired over from just outside the area early on.
At the other end, Benik Afobe over-hit a pass for Charlie Daniels to end a promising Bournemouth attack, although it was the visitors who wasted the best chance of the first half.
A poor clearance from former Chelsea goalkeeper Begovic allowed Hazard to slip Morata through on goal, but the striker could only put his tame finish wide.
Morata had the ball in net a few moments later, only to be denied when – in what looked like a marginal call – it was ruled Cesar Azpilicueta had strayed offside as David Luiz’s original deflected shot was fired at the Bournemouth keeper.
The ex-Real Madrid striker’s frustrating evening continued when, having again been found by Hazard, he dribbled past Simon Francis and saw his left-footed effort impressively saved by Begovic, with Conte visibly annoyed as half-time arrived with the match still level.
But it only took Chelsea six minutes to make the breakthrough in the second half, as Francis failed to cut out Morata’s chipped pass and Hazard raced in to beat Begovic at his near post with a powerful left-footed finish.
Jordon Ibe, who had been brought on at the break after initially being left out as part of two changes from Howe, had a powerful strike deflect just over as Bournemouth sought a response.
But Bournemouth were struggling to gain meaningful possession and creating little going forward, with Thibaut Courtois not having a shot to save in the whole match until Steve Cook fired straight at him in the final moments.
Cesc Fabregas lashed over from close range after being fed by Hazard late on, but that mattered little as Chelsea cruised to what was a comfortable victory, despite the close scoreline.
Key Opta stats:
– Bournemouth’s only shot on target of the game came in the 93rd minute.
– Indeed, that tally of just one shot on target is the Cherries’ joint-lowest total ever in a home Premier League game.
– Chelsea have won six of their last seven away Premier League games (L1).
– Bournemouth have picked up just four points from their five Premier League home games this season (W1 D1 L3), after accruing 10 points from their last five last season (W3 D1 L1).
– Only Diego Costa (10 goals scored) has hand a hand in more goals in his first nine Premier League appearances for Chelsea than Morata (9).