Chelsea put one hand firmly on the Premier League title on Monday night, with goals from Diego Costa, Marco Alonso and Nemanja Matić relegated Middlesbrough back down to the Championship with the 3-0 defeat.
It was a dominant first-half performance from the Blues from when Alonso hit the crossbar inside the opening 60 seconds, Costa came close with his initial chance before firing home from close-range in the 23rd minute. Alonso then got his goal just over ten minutes before the break, Victor Moses looked to add another but couldn’t deflate Boro any further.
Chelsea didn't let up in the second period with Pedro, Gary Cahill and Cesc Fàbregas going close, but Matić rounded up the score to leave the Blues just the one win away from lifting the title ahead of Friday's trip to West Brom but left Boro facing life back in the second-tier of English football.
Thrown in at the deep end
The clash at Stamford Bridge brought together the two polar opposites of the Premier League table, with Chelsea looking to put one hand on the title after Tottenham’s 1-0 defeat to West Ham on Friday. It was far more serious for the travelling side, as Steve Agnew knew that defeat would send them back down to the Championship and they looked dead and buried from the first minute.
It was too easy for the champions elect as Boro looked to go for broke by pressing high, Fàbregas pinged it into the feet of Alonso who hit low on the volley but the palm of Brad Guzan took it onto the crossbar.
It didn’t get easier from there for the Teesside outfit, with Costa coming within inches of opening the scoring. It was simple enough again from the Blues who played from right to left with Eden Hazard beating the offside trap, he stuck it between through the legs of Fabio. The goal was gaping for Costa but the pressure of George Friend saw it trickle past, he appealed for the penalty from Craig Pawson but Friend did very well to keep his side in the game.
Taking an expected lead
Friend’s efforts were all in vain as Antonio Conte’s men took the expected lead, and it was poor again from the visitors as Chelsea are allowed to split them open from the left to right.
Fàbregas was pulling the strings again as he took a quick glance before picking out Costa, Fabio was unlucky as he got a minor touch but it was simple enough for the striker to stick it between the legs of Guzan.
One hand on the trophy
The Blues were an dominant force throughout that opening 45 minutes, and the title of champions elect could begin to be readily used as they added a second goal.
This time it was the turn of César Azpilicueta to turn provider, as he pinged the ball over for Alonso in similar position to Fàbregas for the first goal. Alonso was running in on the by-line but the angle looked against him, but the unfortunate deflection off the leg of Guzan sunk his side further into the abyss.
Continuing to turn the screw
Chelsea weren’t settling for just the two goals as they once again came flying out of the traps in the second period looking for that defining third goal.
Pedro came close just seconds after the restart as it was played through to him on the edge of the area, he hit the shot first time but it looked to be always going wide as it clipped the top of the crossbar.
Cahill had been quite prolific throughout the campaign having already notched up six going into this clash, and he thought he should have made it seven in the 54th minute. It was excellent as the defender hit a strong effort from distance which Guzan could only palm it back into the danger zone, after a minimal build-up the ball came back out to Fàbregas on the edge of the area.
It was good technique from the Spaniard as he hit it on the volley, it took a minimal touch from Calum Chambers which Guzan rooted to the spot, but luckily it went just wide of the post.
In his two spells at the club Matić had failed to score at Stamford Bridge in both of them, but he couldn’t have been given a better opportunity to get it than against Agnew’s walking wounded and he took it when presented to him in the 65th minute.
Once again it was good build-up play as the ball deflected into the feet of Fàbregas, he flicked it onto the chest of Matić with his touch enough to get away from Martin de Roon and lash it between the legs of Guzan.