Chelsea took a massive stride towards clinching the Premier League title with a 3-0 victory against Everton at Goodison Park on Sunday afternoon, writes MARSHALL GOUTS.
Antonio Conte made one change from his side that defeated Southampton 4-2, with Pedro coming into replace Cesc Fabregas in the line-up.
Ronald Koeman made two changes from his side that played to a 0-0 draw against West Ham United, with Dominic Clevert-Lewin and Enner Valencia being restored to the line-up.
The home side got off to an excellent start and almost took the lead as early as the second minute as Calvert-Lewin got the better of Gary Cahill before striking the post, but Chelsea cleared their lines before Romelu Lukaku could get on to the end of the rebound.
The visitors almost broke the deadlock in classic Chelsea style, as Diego Costa skipped away from a challenge before playing Eden Hazard in on goal, who rounded the goalkeeper, but he hit the side-netting with his resultant effort.
Lukaku was starved of ball for the most of the encounter by the Chelsea defence, but came agonisingly close to breaking the deadlock in the 23rd minute when he shrugged off David Luiz before rifling in a grasscutter, which went inches wide of the post.
Costa blazed an effort over the bar in the 24th minute when he got on to the end of Luiz’s long-ball, after some terrible defending by Phil Jagielka.
Everton winger Enner Valencia did well to win back possession before going on a surging run down the right, but his cross was just too far for the out-stretching Romelu Lukaku.
The second half saw Chelsea emerge with more of an attacking intent, with Matic proving instrumental in the middle of the park, however the Everton defence proved tough to break down.
Chelsea were rewarded for their patience when Pedro opened the scoring in the 67th minute with a stunning long-range effort after receiving the ball with his back-to-goal from Matic. The Spaniard did well to evade the attention of his marker before unleashing a beauty of a strike.
Everton threw the kitchen sink at Chelsea in the remaining minutes in their bid to draw level, but the Premier League table-toppers not only stood firm, but added another in the 79th minute when captain Gary Cahill benefited from Hazard’s free kick to make it 2-0.
The Blues added a third in the 87th minute when substitutes Fabregas and Willian combined, with the latter slotting home after being unselfishly teed-up by Fabregas.
Chelsea registered their 26th win of the campaign with the 2-0 win against Everton, in addition to moving seven points clear of second-placed Tottenham, who face Arsenal in the North London Derby in Sunday’s late Premier League game.
Meanwhile, relegation-threatened Middlesbrough dented Manchester City’s top four hopes as they held Pep Guardiola’s side to a 2-2 draw at the Riverside Stadium after goals by Alvaro Negredo, Calum Chambers, Sergio Aguero and Gabriel Jesus.
Photo: Peter Powell/EPA
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