Monday 24 April 2017

Chelsea keep their focus to go 11 points clear of chasing pack

Chelsea 3 Swansea 1

Diego Costa lashes the ball home emphatically to score Chelsea’s third goal of the game against Swansea. Photo: Reuters
Diego Costa lashes the ball home emphatically to score Chelsea’s third goal of the game against Swansea. Photo: Reuters

Matt McGeehan

Antonio Conte praised his Chelsea players' second-half response in yesterday's win over Swansea which established an 11-point lead at the Premier League summit.

Cesc Fabregas scored on his 300th Premier League appearance, but Fernando Llorente equalised on the stroke of half-time against the run of play.

Swansea City's Martin Olsson and Chelsea's Pedro battle for the ball. Photo: PA
Swansea City's Martin Olsson and Chelsea's Pedro battle for the ball. Photo: PA

Pedro scored Chelsea's second when his shot deceived Swansea's goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski and Diego Costa added a late third as Conte's men won a 12th successive home game.

"It's right for me to help them to be focused in every moment," the Chelsea head coach said.

"We played first half really well and it was a pity to concede the goal at the end of the first half. Maybe the time was finished, but in this case you must pay attention.

"I told them, 'We are playing very well, we are dominating the game, we created some chances, but we stay 1-1. We don't deserve this, but the reality is now we are 1-1. For this reason go in the second half and push, because we need to win'. They did this.

Swansea City's Gylfi Sigurdsson moves between Chelsea's David Luiz and Victor Moses. Photo: Reuters
Swansea City's Gylfi Sigurdsson moves between Chelsea's David Luiz and Victor Moses. Photo: Reuters

"I think it was very important because in this situation when the tension starts to increase, it's important also to see the right answer from my players.

"And today I saw a lot of right answers from my players."

Second-placed Manchester City are not in action this weekend, but Tottenham could cut the deficit to 10 points with victory over Stoke today.

Chelsea's lead is commanding with 12 games to go, but Conte is taking nothing for granted and believes his squad has plenty of title-winning experience.

He added: "To keep the concentration for the whole championship is not easy.

"But I have a lot of players that played and won in the past. They know very well the way that we must continue to try to keep the top of the table, to try to win the title. For this reason, I'm lucky. I'm lucky to have a lot of players that in the past won a lot."

Fabregas was selected ahead of Nemanja Matic for his first Premier League start of 2017 in the sole change to the starting XI from Chelsea's 1-1 draw at Burnley last time out.

Conte is pleased to have selection dilemmas and cited another in choosing between Willian and Pedro. Pedro started again and scored for a third straight game.

"Pedro is showing his quality," Conte added."The formation is exploiting his characteristics."

Swansea's only defeats in six league games under former Chelsea assistant boss Paul Clement have come to Arsenal, City and now the Blues. And the visitors felt aggrieved at being denied a second-half penalty when, with the score 1-1, the ball appeared to hit the arm of Cesar Azpilicueta.

Referee Neil Swarbrick dismissed the appeals and Clement did not approach him about the decision afterwards.

"I thought it was a penalty. That should've been given," Clement said.

"I've seen it again on the video and I think he (Swarbrick) had a good view of it."

On Pedro's goal, with a shot which went beneath the Swansea goalkeeper, Clement added: "Fabianski is disappointed. You could see from his reaction.

"You never want to lose a game, but the performance doesn't damage our confidence. We've had some really difficult away games, and picked up some good home results. The month of March is vital."

Swansea play Burnley, Hull, Bournemouth and Middlesbrough in the next few weeks and Llorente will be key. The Spain striker was linked with a move to Chelsea in January and showed why. "I wasn't always confident we'd keep him, but I'm certainly glad we have," Clement added.

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