League leaders Chelsea restored their advantage at the top of the Premier League to seven points after overcoming AFC Bournemouth 3-1 at The Vitality Stadium to end the Cherries five match unbeaten run.
Two goals in the space of three minutes, including an Adam Smith own goal and strike from Eden Hazard put the visitors in firm control with just 20 minutes played. The Cherries remained defiant and bounced back as Benik Afobe hit the post before Josh King’s deflected strike pulled one back for the hosts just before the break. Both sides had their chances in the second half, but a stunning free kick from Marcos Alonso at the midway point of the half settled the match and secured a precious three points for Antonio Conte’s side in their title pursuit.
The opening few minutes of the game were fast paced as both teams sought to make the perfect start. After just two minutes David Luiz nearly embarrassed himself after he inadvertently fired an attempted clearance straight towards his own goal, forcing Thibaut Courtois to parry the ball out for a corner.
The Cherries had an opportunity of their own making with quarter of an hour played after Ryan Fraser went through on goal. With just Luiz to get past, the Scot took the shot on and fired narrowly wide from the edge of the area.
Less than a couple of minutes after that chance Chelsea took the lead, albeit rather fortuitously after Diego Costa’s sliced mis hit strike took a deflection of defender Smith to carry the ball into his own net. Three minutes later and the Blues had doubled their lead after N’Golo Kante’s pass found Hazard, who was able to outdo the Bournemouth defence for pace as he burst through the back line and stroked the ball home into the far corner of the net.
Just before the half hour mark Eddie Howe’s side came mightily close to pulling a goal back after Charlie Daniels’ cross field pass found Afobe. The Ivorian striker slid in to direct the ball towards the corner of the net and got the better of Courtois, but hit the inside of the near post.
Chelsea continued to press to kill the game off and came close after Marc Pugh was caught in possession by Hazard, who played through Costa, but his follow up shot was deflected out for a corner. The Blues went even closer when Hazard clipped a cross into Victor Moses, who had a bit of free space to guide his header from 12 yards out, but put it wide.
With 42 minutes gone Bournemouth got the goal they were looking for and on the balance of play merited. King’s powerful strike took a slight deflection off Luiz to take it beyond Courtois to reduce the scoreline to 2-1 at half time.
Howe’s side came out positively in the second half, looking to get an equaliser and almost had it on 50 minutes after Fraser drove his strike from the edge area low just wide of the post.
20 minutes into the second half and the visitors put the game to bed. Steve Cook fouled Costa on the edge of the area and up stepped Alonso. The defender had threatened from this position in Premier League matches before, hitting the bar twice. In this match his luck was in as he fired the ball over the wall and into the top corner of the net, an emphatic finish to restore the league leaders two goal advantage.
Chelsea dominated possession throughout the final 20 minutes of the match and chances for Bournemouth to get back into the match were few and far between. The visitors saw out the 3-1 win much to Conte’s delight. Next up for the Cherries, a trip to White Hart Lane to face Chelsea’s title rivals Tottenham Hotspur.