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Hazard and Alonso send Chelsea closer to title

Bournemouth (United Kingdom) (AFP) – Chelsea delivered the perfect response to Tottenham Hotspur by winning 3-1 at Bournemouth on Saturday to restore their seven-point lead at the top of the Premier League table.

Antonio Conte’s men went ahead after 17 minutes when Bournemouth’s Adam Smith deflected in Diego Costa’s shot and Eden Hazard made it 2-0 within a minute.

Joshua King halved the deficit just before half-time, but Marcos Alonso made it 3-1 with a perfectly flighted free kick after 68 minutes.

Tottenham had trimmed Chelsea’s advantage to four points by crushing Watford 4-0 earlier in the day, but Chelsea’s victory left them seven points clear with seven games of the season remaining.

However, they were almost a goal down in the first minute.

Bournemouth midfielder Ryan Fraser curled a cross into the six-yard area and David Luiz, perhaps blinded by the low sun, sliced his attempt at a volleyed clearance back towards his own net.

It looked a certain goal until goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois flung out his left arm to divert the ball for a corner-kick.

But Chelsea recovered their composure quickly and took the lead, just after Jack Wilshere — on loan to Bournemouth from Arsenal — had created a chance for Fraser that he put well wide.

Luiz began the move with a pass out to Victor Moses on the right. His low ball inside found Costa, who turned and shot left-footed.His mishit effort was going well wide until it grazed the head of right-back Smith, who was attempting to block, and dropped gently inside the post with goalkeeper Artur Boruc hopelessly wrong-footed.

Costa had not scored in his previous four appearances for Chelsea, but manager Conte had expressed his confidence in the forward as a scorer and creator of goals. This was vindication of a sort.

A minute later it was 2-0 after Wilshere lost possession in midfield and N’Golo Kante sent Hazard through.

– Fortune shines on Courtois –

Just onside, Hazard ran on, feinted to shoot to the goalkeeper’s right, went round him to his left and rolled the ball into the net despite appearing to stumble.

It might have been three after 27 minutes when Alonso’s clever pass gave Hazard the chance to cross from the left, but when the ball reached Costa, he shot well wide.

That might have proved a costly miss as the home side went close to a goal 60 seconds later.

Striker Benik Afobe charged unmarked into space to meet Charlie Daniels’s cross from the left, only to volley against the inside of the post.

The ball rebounded across goal, but a fortunate touch off Courtois’s leg took it away from King, who would otherwise have had an almost unmissable chance.

It was a sign that Bournemouth were in no mood to surrender to the league leaders and they pulled a goal back three minutes before the interval.

King took Afobe’s pass and, as defenders retreated, tried a shot. The ball flicked off the thigh of Luiz and zipped high between Courtois and his near post.

Fraser hit a low shot just wide as Bournemouth looked for an equaliser early in the second half, but Costa missed two good chances to restore Chelsea’s two-goal advantage.

First he just failed to get his head to Hazard’s volleyed cross and then he missed Alonso’s low cross from a yard out.

However, he contributed to Chelsea’s third goal when he was fouled 22 yards out by Steve Cook.

Alonso capped an excellent performance with a precise free-kick that soared over the wall and found the top-right corner of the net with Boruc rooted to his line.

Boruc, though, did well to deny Chelsea a fourth with a one-handed save from Moses.

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