Chelsea make it ten out of ten to top the table at Christmas
Cesc Fabregas goal and Thibaut Courtois save guarantee that the Blues will be top of the tree next week
Sunderland 0 Chelsea 1
A goal from Cesc Fabregas earned Chelsea another three points at Sunderland and ensured the Blues will spend Christmas at the top of the Premier League.
Their tenth consecutive league victory means Chelsea are now six points clear of Arsenal and Liverpool, who moved level on points with the Gunners with a comfortable 3-0 win away at Middlesbrough.
With Manchester City also winning on Wednesday - 2-0 against Watford - the chasing pack are bunching up behind the Blues, but the six-point gap to Chelsea represents a healthy lead, particularly as the leaders end the year in relatively easy fashion, visiting Crystal Palace, and then hosting Bournemouth on Boxing Day and Stoke five days' later.
Six of the past seven teams to top the Premier League at Christmas have lifted the title in May and given their recent form few would bet against the Blues making it seven out of eight. Since losing 3-0 to Arsenal on 24 September, Chelsea have not only won ten in a row in the Premier League but they've kept a clean sheet in eight of those matches, conceding one goal to Tottenham and one against Manchester City.
Sunderland rarely looked like joining that exclusive club although Thibaut Courtois saved well in stoppage time from Patrick van Aanholt. It would have been tough on the visitors to share the spoils with a side that they dominated for most of the 90 minutes, and Sunderland had keeper Jordan Pickford to thank to keeping the scoreline respectable.
He pulled off smart saves to deny Marcos Alonso and Willian but was unable to keep out Fabregas' strike five minutes before the break, his first league goal of the season.
Although he declared himself "pleased" with the result, Chelsea manager Antonio Conte scolded his side for nearly throwing away two points. "When you have the possibility to kill the game you must kill the game," he said. "We had this possibility but we didn't and at the end Courtois made a good save. I hope in the future we can improve."
And Conte refused to get carried away with Chelsea's six point cushion at the top of the table, telling reporters: "I prefer not to look at the table... we are on top of the table, but there are still three games to end the first part of the season and then 19 games.
"This league is very tough and I think until the end, it will be a big battle between six teams... now for sure we have to continue. In three days on Saturday, we will have another tough game against Crystal Palace. I hope we recover very well after this battle to try to arrive at Christmas in an incredible position in the table."